UK students have to pay fees of £9,000 at Aberdeen University

Aberdeen University has become the first in Scotland to force students from the rest of the UK to pay tuition fees of £9,000 a year.

Principal Ian Diamond insisted that keeping fees at their current level is “no longer an option” in light of similar increases south of the Border.

Scottish students will continue to be exempt, in line with SNP government policy to keep education free.

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There will be a cap of £27,000 in Aberdeen so that students sitting the usual four-year honours degree in Scotland will effectively get one year free.

It is a marked rise on the present level of £1,800 for most degrees, and £2,800 for medicine.

Universities in Scotland have been given the green light to increase fees to the levels introduced recently set by the coalition government south of the Border, to prevent an influx of students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland seeking a cheap alternative to the massive rises they face.

The increases announced by Aberdeen yesterday are expected to be followed by similar increases at universities such as Edinburgh, St Andrews, Glasgow and Dundee, although all say they are still working on their plans.

Prof Diamond said yesterday: “Maintaining a fee at the current level for students from the rest of the UK is no longer an option.

“Given that we are one of the world’s top 150 universities and our graduates enjoy some of the best starting salaries in the UK, Aberdeen must remain an academic destination of choice, without disadvantaging those who wish to enjoy the benefits of a four-year Scottish degree.

“As a result the University of Aberdeen has decided that RUK students will pay no more than £27,000 for a four-year degree programme but that the rate per year is set at £9,000.”

The issue has prompted anger among English MPs as other European students are not charged in Scotland. EU rules prevent discrimination against another member state. However, the rules do not apply to English, Welsh and Northern Irish student because they are from the same EU state as Scotland – the UK.

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NUS Scotland president Robin Parker said: “We fully reject any increase in fees but this is a disastrous decision.

“It’s urgent that students get clarity about what bursaries will be available to protect fair access. Unless the university comes forward with a strong bursary package, students from the rest of the UK will be paying more for a degree than at Oxford or Cambridge University.

“This is nothing more than cashing in on students from the rest of the UK.”

There are just under 20,000 students from the rest of the UK currently studying in Scotland.

Universities Scotland director Alastair Sim said: “In light of the increase to fees in England, the Scottish Government has had to make some tough policy decisions.

“The proposed new fees regime will protect places for Scottish students and allow universities to compete on a level footing with universities in England.”

Labour education spokeswoman Claire Baker had called for restraint in the setting of fees and said she was “disappointed”.