Student numbers down despite SNP’s free tuition policy

The number of Scottish university entrants has dropped. Picture: Neil Hanna

The number of Scottish university entrants has dropped. Picture: Neil Hanna

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THOUSANDS fewer Scottish students are going to university in the country despite the SNP’s flagship education policy of free tuition.

A drop of more than 2,000 in 2014-15 comes as the number of students paying fees from outside Scotland continues to rise, new figures from the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) state.

The total number of Scottish university entrants fell by 2,190 (1.8 per cent) between 2013-14 and 2014-15, according to the SFC, which distributes funding from the Scottish Government to colleges and universities.

The fall in the number of students at universities came despite the Scottish government’s policy of having free university tuition for students from Scotland. Students from the rest of the UK have to pay tuition fees, though those from other European Union nations are eligible for free tuition.

But the SFC said there was an increase of 285 (2.2 per cent) for non-European entrants and an increase of 55 (5.6 per cent) for entrants from the non-EU Europe area. There was also a rise of 150 (1.5 per cent) from students in the rest of the UK going to Scots universities.

Meanwhile, the SFC found that the numbers of university students from the 20 per cent most deprived areas increased by 0.1 percentage points compared to 2013-14.

The number of qualifiers from Higher Education at Scottish universities and colleges has risen by 14,120 (17 per cent) since 2006-07

Scotland’s cabinet secretary for education Angela Constance said young people in Scotland are more likely to participate in Higher Education by the age of 30 than they were in 2013-14.

She said: “Today’s figures further underline excellence in Scottish Higher Education. Our colleges are fully focused on supporting our young people into jobs and our universities remain globally renowned.

“Both have a significant role to play in growing Scotland’s economy.”

Scottish Conservative young people spokeswoman Liz Smith said: “While it is encouraging to see a rise in the number of qualifiers, there remain significant issues facing higher education in Scotland.

“The SNP knows that it cannot provide this support or widen access in the way it has promised without finding more money for the HE sector.

“Its ‘free’ higher education policy is simply not sustainable without delivering cuts elsewhere as the colleges know only too well, or raising taxes. That is why the Scottish Conservatives are committed to a modest graduate contribution.”

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