CONCERN that Scottish school leavers are losing out on places at Scotland’s universities rose last night when details emerged of the courses that are closed to native Scots but not to those from the rest of the UK.
For Scottish applicants wanting to study at Dundee University, fewer than 30 courses are still open to them under the clearing system.
In contrast, there are more than 100 open to students heading to Tayside from the rest of the UK.
The discrepancy follows the revelation this week that Aberdeen and Stirling universities are to give all their clearing places to fee-paying English and foreign students.
Opposition politicians have accused the Scottish Government of presiding over a “two-tier” higher education system as a result of Scottish Government-imposed quotas on the number of Scots eligible to study at a Scottish university.
Critics of the SNP policy claim that Scots, who qualify to study in Scotland free of charge, are being excluded from Scottish institutions, which need to attract fee-paying students from elsewhere to balance the books.
The education secretary, Michael Russell, has argued that the quota system is “protecting” the number of places for Scots. Others have described the system as a cap on the number of places for Scottish students.
According to Dundee University’s website, only 29 courses are still open to Scots who are going through the clearing system – the process by which applicants without a university course at this late stage find a vacancy.
Fee-paying applicants from the rest of the UK have well over 100 courses to choose from. Among those courses closed to Scottish school leavers but open to those from elsewhere in Britain are computing, economics, geography and law.
Liz Smith, the Conservative education spokeswoman, said: “It seems the Scottish-domiciled students are losing out. The suspicion is that English students who may have slightly lower grades are getting in, because the universities will get money.”
A spokesman for Dundee University said: “Each university in Scotland is allocated a number of funded places for students from Scotland and the EU by the Scottish Funding Council. Financial penalties are imposed should institutions over-recruit against this number. There are no restrictions on the number of RUK [rest of the UK] or international students.”
Universities Scotland’s director, Alastair Sim, said: “Let’s be clear: no place intended for a Scottish or EU student at one of Scotland’s universities can be taken up by a student from the rest of the UK or overseas. As of today, some universities remain open to Scottish students with places available in clearing.
“With Higher results published eight working days earlier than A-level results, Scottish students had a head start in applying.”
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “The number of funded places has increased by 400 this year.”