Scottish students risk losing out amid flood of applications from EU

Fees in England mean EU residents are coming to Scotland. Picture: Jane Barlow
Fees in England mean EU residents are coming to Scotland. Picture: Jane Barlow
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SCOTTISH students risk missing out on higher education places in their own country due to a huge increase in competition from elsewhere in the EU, one of the country’s leading universities has warned.

Glasgow University said it had concerns that a rise in applications from EU students would begin to reduce the number of Scots studying at the institution.

While Scots have always been in competition with those from other parts of Europe, the introduction of fees of up to £9,000 a year south of the Border means more EU students are applying for places in Scotland.

The warning from Glasgow University comes in the institution’s “outcome agreement”, seen by The Scotsman, which sets out how the university intends to widen access in return for extra Scottish Government funding. The university said applications from EU students rose by 28 per cent in the past year.

The outcome agreement for Edinburgh University, while making no explicit warning about Scots being squeezed out, said applications from EU students rose by more than 25 per cent in the 2012-13 cycle.

Both institutions also set out their commitment to widening access for poorer students by “contextualising” admissions to take into account a person’s background rather than simply their exam results.

According to Glasgow, applications from Scots “remain healthy” and were up 3.5 per cent for 2012 entry. However, the university notes applications from EU candidates have “grown substantially”, up 28 per cent in 2012-13 compared with the previous year.

The report notes: “Procedures within the university are capable of achieving admissions targets to a small tolerance and we expect to maintain the Scottish-domiciled and EU population.

“We have concerns, however, that healthy application rates from EU students will begin to reduce the number of Scottish-domiciled students.”

While there is no cap on the number of fee-paying students from elsewhere in the UK who can study in Scotland, there is a finite number of places for both Scots and EU students, both of whom have tuition costs paid by the Scottish Government.

The decision by most leading English universities to charge £9,000 a year means more EU students are looking to Scotland.

A spokeswoman for Universities Scotland said: “EU law 
necessitates that Scottish and EU students must be treated equally and therefore Scots and EU students are eligible to apply for the same pool of funded places.

“Despite this, it is important to stay focused on the fact that the number of Scottish students studying at Scotland’s universities is still increasing. The number of Scots accepted into university increased by 325 from the year before, compared to only 125 EU students. It’s easy to use figures to scaremonger about Scots being squeezed out of our universities if you talk about percentage increases, as any increase in EU students starts from a lower base.”

While colleges are seeing their budgets cut, Scotland’s universities have received extra money from the Scottish Funding Council on behalf of the Scottish Government in an attempt to close a funding gap with institutions in England.