Readers' Letters: The case for a review of student placements is clear

Of the range of universal benefit provision introduced by the Scottish Parliament in the last 23 years, it appears that free undergraduate tuition fees for Scottish domiciled students is the most controversial.

It is to the credit of Reform Scotland that it has highlighted the “artificial cap” on student placements that the existing system creates (“University funding structure leads to ‘artificial cap’ on Scots students”, Scotsman, 1 August). If the increase in Scottish students being refused entry is as a high as the think tank claims, then the case has been made for an urgent review. We can note with concern that only 30 per cent of intake at Edinburgh and St Andrews universities are students who live here, compared to 90 per cent at Glasgow Caledonian and the Highlands and Islands and SRUC.

This suggests that a greater proportion of students from lower income groups are attending what some may feel are the less prestigious institutions. It may also reflect the higher proportion of fee-paying students from overseas who are attracted to the more traditional bodies.

In the past both Edinburgh and St Andrews have been anxious to stress they are doing all they can to attract students living in Scotland from the relatively deprived areas. But I think we can take it that intake to universities across the board reflects income distribution throughout the land.

At Edinburgh and St Andrews universities only 30 per cent of the full-time students are Scottish citizens before they enrol

Whether the overall problem can be solved by post-graduation contributions from the higher earners, as Reform Scotland suggests, needs a lot more thought. More direct intervention by the state, providing finance to increase quotas for home students at the ancient universities, may need to be examined further. "Scrap the Cap” may be an attractive and timely slogan. The issue needs more examination if the international reputation of higher education here is to be reconciled with the aspirations of our home-based students.

Bob Taylor, Glenrothes, Fife

Cull courses

Reform Scotland is proposing "a system requiring repayment of student fees by those who can afford to do so while anyone with little financial benefit as a result of attending university will repay little or nothing”.

I'm one of thousands of Scottish kids who left university in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, with a world-class degree and no debt, having been selected on merit and funded based on need (in my case, a full grant when my dad died).

I hardly know where to start on this cherry-picked answer to years of pumping up and dumbing down Scotland’s education industry to the point where it is verging on collapse, both in its basic objective of producing a steady stream of brainy people to man the important, neccessary jobs and its more recent one of flogging courses abroad to subsidise a diluted deluge of sports management, digital media, international relations and psychology graduates doomed to fulfilling the “little financial benefit as a result of attending university” criteria for having their debts paid.

How about organisations such as Skills Development Scotland (the clue's in the name) working with academia to forecast what skills will be require in the coming years and setting quotas for the number of courses allocated to Scottish kids, paying the costs of the best students based on qualifications and family circumstances, and paying for it by reducing the number of superfluous courses?

Allan Sutherland, Stonehaven, Aberdeen

Price to pay

As with all SNP publicity, it sounds great to say that higher education is free in Scotland but as with everything it comes at a cost. To be able to provide this “free” education, you require fee-paying students to take a high number of the spaces available.

It is a lazy excuse to blame Brexit for Scotland not having qualified professionals when many of our great students have to go south of the border to gain the education not available to them here.

When you rely more and more on foreign students taking places to keep the universities’ funding sources going, you are starving your own future generations of the chance to give back to society here, where they were born and/or raised. At Edinburgh and St Andrews universities only 30 per cent of the full-time students are Scottish citizens before they enrol. That is 70 per cent of Scottish-educated students where the majority will return to their homelands.

The SNP never think of the consequences of their desire for a great headline. They claim that access to education should be based on the ability to learn, not to pay. I couldn’t agree more, but access is being denied by this government not funding the education places properly.

Jane Lax, Aberlour, Moray

‘Real’ Scotland

Jill Stephenson (Letters, 30 July) very successfully dismantles the oft-quoted Nationalist myth that somehow Scotland is a “colony”, as implied by Richard Walthew in his recent letter (28 July).

However, there was also another element to his correspondence. He appeared to be saying that people in Scotland who do not support independence are somehow not “real” Scots. His tirade against his fellow Borderers would seem to back this up. In relation to this, he then refers to what he calls the “real Scotland” – presumably areas that vote SNP. Also, he seemed to suggest that in some way Unionists are inherently more naive than Nationalists by being more susceptible to “propaganda”, a very, very debatable assertion.

I sincerely hope that Mr Walthew is not saying that an individual’s national identity primarily depends on which political party they support and with whose views they agree. Believing that what makes you “truly” Scottish is dependent on which box you put your cross in, is surely a dangerous road we don’t want to go down.

James McLeod, Glenrothes, Fife

Inglis a Lioness

It’s a great triumph for England’s Lionesses to be crowned European Champions, especially when women’s football has had to fight so hard for recognition over the years. It was only in 1971 that the SWFA was launched and women’s matches were officially recognised.

The first recorded women’s match in Scotland was in 1881 at Easter Road, but the score is not documented. A few weeks later in Glasgow the teams met again, but the match was abandoned due to a pitch invasion. The press vilified the female players, criticising their appearance, clothing (which included corsets and bonnets to comply with Victorian standards) and the standard of play.

Around the same time, the Edinburgh Seven, the early women medical students, were harassed and jostled by an unruly mob as they approached the Surgeon’s Hall to sit their anatomy exam. They had to fight hard to overcome prejudice against women training as doctors. Such has been the prejudice against women partaking in public life and sport over the years.

Another woman who faced opposition and resistance in her work was Edinburgh’s famous Dr Elsie Inglis. She was told to “go home and sit still”, when she offered all-women fully-equipped medical units to the British Government in 1914 at the outbreak of the First World War, while the French and Serbians welcomed her initiative immediately.

Elsie Inglis died in 1917 and only now is there a recognised movement (www.elsieinglis.org) to have a statue of this pioneering woman placed in Edinburgh. The plans are for her statue to be unveiled in the High Street, the first woman among 12 male statues, in 2024. The call to artists was launched last week, but only two members of the media even responded to the extensive press release.

Enough said.

Fiona Garwood, Edinburgh

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Three Lions

Are England's men so insecure they can't just feel glad for the England women's excellent victory at the European Championships – with 22 goals scored for only two conceded – instead of trying to appropriate it with their "Three Lions on a shirt" boorish lager lad rubbish?

2022 is a success in its own right, not a “follow on” from 1966. Winning the Bertoni Trophy doesn’t “make up” for the men winning hee-haw since the Jules Rimet Trophy, not least of all since England's women don't need to take games to penalty kicks – let alone fluff them every time.

This is their moment, guys – let them enjoy the fruits of their labours.

Mark Boyle, Johnstone, Renfrewshire

Stop smoking

I am writing on behalf of health charity ASH Scotland in response to the “slump in number of Scots quitting smoking” (Scotsman, 30 July), as we are deeply concerned that fewer people are making attempts to quit smoking and Scotland is not on track to achieve the Scottish Government’s goal of a generation free from tobacco by 2034.

Smoking continues to be the biggest cause of preventable ill-health and an estimated 9,000 deaths in Scotland each year, and we are particularly troubled about the health inequality experienced by people in our most deprived communities, where smoking rates remain high at 32 per cent.

Research shows that two-thirds of smokers say they would like to quit, and we want the government and health boards to do more to ensure Quit Your Way services are resourced to enable more people, especially in our poorest areas, to get easily accessible one-to-one support to help them to give up smoking.

We encourage anyone aiming to give up smoking to contact their local stop smoking service, GP, community pharmacy or call Quit Your Way Scotland on 0800 848484 or visit www.QuitYourWay.scot to find the best person-centred ways to take steps towards a much healthier future.

Sheila Duffy, Chief Executive, ASH Scotland, Edinburgh

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