Demand rises for Scottish university education

Picture: Johnston Press
Picture: Johnston Press
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THE introduction of fees of up to £9,000 a year has failed to deter applications to Scotland’s universities, new figures show.

Details released yesterday by the University and Colleges Admission Service (Ucas) show a 6.1 per cent increase in applications to Scottish institutions by the 30 June deadline when compared with last year.

While there was a modest 1.2 per cent increase in applications from Scots, there was a 13.9 per cent rise in applications from the rest of the UK.

Scottish students and those from elsewhere in the EU are exempt from the cost of tuition, but students from England, Northern Ireland and Wales must pay fees of up to £9,000 a year.

The figures show Scotland’s universities appear to have weathered the introduction of higher-rate fees, which were first charged to students in 2012.

At this stage of the application cycle last year, the number of people applying to Scottish universities from England was down 5.5 per cent.

However, those in the sector always believed it would take a number of years before the full impact of fees was known.

Yesterday’s figures show Scotland is now outperforming other parts of the UK, attracting a 14 per cent increase in applications from England, compared with institutions south of the Border, which saw a more modest 2.9 per cent rise.

David Lott, deputy director of Universities Scotland, said: “Scotland’s universities have the highest levels of student satisfaction and best rates in the UK for graduates getting jobs or progressing to further study.

“It is very encouraging to see Scottish universities bounce back from last year’s dip in application rates from students across the rest of the UK following the introduction of fees.

“The fact that Scottish universities are seeing applications from fee-paying students from the UK and further afield increase demonstrates the quality of the educational experience on offer in Scotland.”

Last week, figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency showed modern universities such as Robert Gordon in Aberdeen and Glasgow Caledonian were now better than Oxbridge when it came to graduates finding work or going on to further study.

Commenting on the Ucas figures, education secretary Mike Russell said: “Scotland’s universities have a reputation for excellence and these figures show their appeal is as strong as ever.

“Graduates from Scottish universities are more likely to go on to further study or employment, to have a higher starting salary and to be in a professional occupation than graduates from other parts of the UK.”

Gordon Maloney, president of the National Union of Students in Scotland, said: “In Scotland we continue to see rises in application figures from Scottish students, which builds further on an already high base. In contrast, England’s applications still haven’t recovered to the levels seen before the fees rise in 2010, with applications still over 30,000 down. That’s always going to be a tragic waste of lost talent.

“It’s great to see applications from the rest of the UK increase to come to study in Scotland. However, this increase doesn’t mean that we’re protecting access for the poorest students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Fair access doesn’t stop at the Border, and we need to see minimum standards or safeguards for these students.

“It’s important to remember these are just application figures. We’ll need to wait for the final figures later this year to see if they translate into acceptances and entrants.”