Cost of learning
There were a number of points in Christine Jardine’s piece, “To be the best needs support” (Perspective, 17 October), that I must challenge.
I believe access to our universities should be based on the ability to learn, not the ability to pay. I don’t want anyone to be put off attending university because they can’t afford it. The simple fact is the cost of tuition is an investment the Scottish Government is making in our future society and economy.
Ms Jardine gives the impression that the UK government’s decision to triple tuition fees increases investment, when in fact it has simply reduced public investment and placed the debt on the shoulders of students.
The Scottish Government has taken decisive action to protect our young people and provide the investment our universities need to retain the competitive edge, despite the swingeing cuts the UK Government has made to our budget. University principals have recognised and welcomed this generous settlement, something Ms Jardine fails to take account of.
In Scotland, the story is about more than just tuition fees. I have recently announced a new system of student support which will be the best in the UK.
This will see the most vulnerable students receive at least £7,250 and increase the student loan support available for all, as requested by the National Union of Students.
We are also working closely with universities to widen access and ensure more students from deprived areas can attend university.
Ms Jardine also makes reference to league tables, giving the impression that introducing tuition fees would improve Scotland’s place in the rankings.
On the contrary, where tuition fees in England have tripled, universities have fallen down the league tables. What is more, other recent rankings have shown Scotland’s universities holding steady.
So while I recognise and support the decision of Ms Jardine’s daughter, and indeed any other Scot who wishes to study in England, I simply can’t let people talk down Scotland’s universities. They are doing a great job and we are supporting them with record investment.
Cabinet secretary for education and lifelong learning
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