Letter: Fees dispute

I AM writing in response to your article headlined "Fees order threat to Scots student places" (13 December). Unfortunately, the whole premise of the article - that Scottish students will lose out on places at university to English students due to an increase in "fees only" students is entirely inaccurate.

Firstly, the letter you claim to be leaked is an open letter to the Scottish Funding Council as part of the budget agreement with the sector to maintain the number of core places at college and universities. The letter has been published on their website for some time. Secondly, and most importantly, no Scottish student will miss out on a place at university due to the increase in the number of "fees only" students.

Tuition fees for all Scottish, UK and other European Union students are set at the same level. A "fee-paying student" is a non-EU student whose place is entirely in addition to those funded by the Scottish Government. Universities are not permitted to fill a "fees-only" place with a "fee-paying student".

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The income is the same from the university's point of view, irrespective of where the student comes from in the EU. The difference is that, for Scots and non-UK EU students, the fees are met by SAAS on the behalf of the student. Students from other parts of the UK have to pay the fees themselves. There is no financial advantage for a university to take an English person over a Scottish person.

Therefore, there is no difference from the Scottish student's point of view whether they are fees only or not. Scottish students are entitled to the same student support package as other students. The increase to fees only students was made as part of this year's Budget and the agreement between the Scottish Government and the sector to maintain the core number of student places. I would be very grateful for urgent clarification to the article which has the potential to make parents, students and university staff to think otherwise.

The letter is available at: www.sfc.ac.uk/about_the_council/ letterofguidance/letterofguidance.aspx.


Cabinet secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning