Tuition fees in Scotland for students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland

Recent events in England have created an issue for Scottish higher education. While in Scotland the principle of free access to universities is a central part of public policy, English higher education institutions can now charge tuition fees of up to £9,000, and most as we know have chosen to set fees at or near that level. This created a potential problem for Scottish higher education: if there were no fees for students from the rest of the UK, or low fees, the student places in Scottish universities would come under pressure from demand from south of the border, and this would create significant problems for Scottish students.

On Wednesday the Scottish Government took a significant step towards addressing this concern. The announcement by the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, Michael Russell MSP, that students from the rest of the UK will be charged up to £9,000 to study at Scottish universities will protect student places while allowing the institutions to recruit students from the rest of the UK in a sensible manner. While this is a difficult decision, it is the right one and Scottish universities have welcomed the announcement.

In England there has been a rush by the majority of universities to charge the full permitted £9,000 tuition fee.  I am inclined to doubt that, in relation to fees for rest-of-UK students, this will be reflected across all Scottish universities. I would at any rate hope and expect that many will set fees at below this maximum level.  All will have to take decisions on this over the next two or three months, so that students who will shortly make choices about where to study in 2012 will have this information available to them.

Given the rather chaotic higher education policies being implemented in England, it is not easy for Scotland to maintain a different ethos in its system. So far it has been able to do so, and while there are some issues to be addressed, Scottish universities are able to operate in a much more stable and predictable setting than elsewhere in these islands. That is worth preserving.

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9 Comments on “Tuition fees in Scotland for students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland”

  1. mjp6034 Says:

    I can understand the Scottish universities taking this position in relation to non Scots students studying, but the wider issue goes to the heart of the problem about the Scottish and English parliaments and unresolved questions of sovereignty and governance. Scottish MPs can vote on English education policy but the Scottish parliament retains control over Scottish HE policy alone. Scottish and English students (and their parents) are taxed at the same level in what appears to be the same country (I never got asked yet to show my passport when entering Scotland), yet an English student wishing to attend a Scottish university will be faced with a bill of £27,000 whilst their fellow students will study for free.
    The mid-Lothian question and the question of parity of fees are not going to go away and the chaotic scene South of the border will certainly have some impact on what happens in Scotland. The English HE whitepaper will have massive ramifications for every territory in the UK.

  2. Eddie Says:

    It is sheer greed that Scorrish SNP education secretary is trying to plug the gaping funding hole in Scottish university funding by hitting the English students with a full whack of £9000. It will be sheer masochism for an English student having passed A levels to go to Scotland and spend 4 years to get a degree whilst he/she could do so in 3 years and spending atleast £20,000 less. Who said Scottish politicians are not cynical having previously hit England with tuition fees, the Midlothian way. Minister Russell has shot his foot as for example living in Aberdeen is almost as expensive as living in London which has two of the top Russell Group universities. I would not consider the HE is in chaos in England, as one could see how well the courses are funded in many RG , and Group 94 universities. The problem is going to be felt in Scotland when the 25,000 so English students who usually choose Scotland for its lower fees, stay in England, or turn to Europe. SNP then has to scratch around to look to fund its freebie university education luxury. I would advise those English students who are in Scotland to move to England, as they could complete their degree in 3 years. I would give just a few years before Scotland introduces the fee in the “Irish way”

    • ken Says:

      Where is the greed? He is simply allowing Scottish universities to charge the same per year of study as English universities are allowed to charge. The Scottish government doesn’t get that income. It is up to each university to set their own fees, and if they price themselves out of the market, that is up to them.

      • Eddie Says:

        So you believe this has nothing to do with £200 million funding gap? That was the greed I pointed out. Russell is not being honest.. if only he had said the purpose is to bridge this gap.

        Politicians in England are privately saying that the SNP having realised that they cannot win the referendum bill ( even having kicked it into the long grass), is trying to influence England to put pressure on Westminster to hasten Scotland exit. There is concerted backdoor effort by the SNP to loosen this tie in preparation for the bill. Salmond salvos against the Supreme Court for example.

        • Not meaning to be rude or anything, but the politicians in England saying that are talking total rubbish. The SNP always said they would have the referendum towards the end of this parliament, and the signs are that, maybe depending a little exactly how they frame the independence option, they will win it.

          • Eddie Says:

            Win what? Independence? Good for England then!! Thanks for clarifying the SNP party’s position.

  3. Anna Notaro Says:

    The article in the Scotsman mentions that ‘…university principals had agreed to honour the £9,000 limit in the meantime’. I think that university principals of Scottish university have to demonstrate a high degree of wisdom in tacking this issue, there are some clear risks in introducing a market inspired ideology into a system like the Scottish one, the unfortunate outcome can be a self-defeating hybridity, maybe there are some merits in the Lecturers’ suggestion to consider a fixed fee instead.

  4. Eddie Says:

    THE has carried another news item about colleges in England awarding their own degrees. in addition to running courses validated for another university ( The reverberations will be felt in Scotland too, as colleges like Aberdeen College can run its own degree couses, and even running courses for example for St Andrews or Edinburgh? Fee-paying and no fee-paying students co-existing with fee -paying students determining the funding a university can have etc.., like the NHS hospitals treating private and NHS patients, the latter having the pick of expert physicians.. Interesting times indeed!!

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