The prospect of Scottish students being charged to go to university north of the Border should be examined as part of a review into the funding system for English institutions unveiled by Theresa May, according to the Scottish Tories.
They say the Scottish Government must look at the “public and private funding of the sector” as universities in Scotland need a fresh injection of resources. But the prospect of charging was rejected by Scotland’s universities minister who said the country is “leading the debate” on student funding.
Students south of the Border face annual tuition fees of more than £9,000, making university education in England among the most expensive in the world. The concerns prompted the Prime Minister to unveil her review in a speech yesterday. The issue is reserved to the Scottish Parliament and Scottish students study free at home. But Scots Tory education spokeswoman Liz Smith says the pivotal role English students have in funding universities in Scotland – where they pay £9,000 a year – means Scots institutions must get involved in the review.
Ms Smith said: “This is an important review for Scottish universities as well as for those south of the border since it is the opportunity to put the long-term future funding of HE [higher education] on a more sustainable footing.
“In Scotland, rUK students paying fees are part of that financial sustainability so I have no doubt that Universities Scotland will engage fully with the discussions.
“It is abundantly clear that the university sector needs additional resources at a time when there is greater demand for university places and the desire to widen access. That, in turn, means that government must look at the balance between public and private funding of the sector.”
The Tories back an annual graduate contribution of £1,500 for Scots students after their degree which would not be paid until they are earning £20,000 a year.
But Scotland’s universities minister Shirley Anne Somerville branded Mr May’s speech an admission of failure.
“She has admitted that the current system in England is not working for students,” Ms Somerville said.
“The SNP government is proud to have restored Scotland’s tradition of free higher education – and with both Labour and the Tories now trying to rewrite history about their own responsibility for the tuition fees fiasco south of the Border, it’s clear that Scotland is leading the policy debate in the UK.”