Scottish fees for non-Scottish UK students
The decision by the British government to allow English universities to charge tuition fees of up to £6,000 – or £9,000 if certain conditions on access are met – has had repercussions beyond England. One of these repercussions is that Scotland has had to introduce a fees régime for so-called ‘Rest of UK’ (RUK) students. This prevents English (and other RUK) students from occupying a disproportionate number of Scottish university places.
Scotland’s universities are now permitted to charge tuition fees for RUK students of up to £9,000, which is the cap in England. However, because Scottish degree programmes tend to run for four years rather than England’s three years, the effect of setting fees at £9,000 p.a. in theory creates a financial burden that is significantly greater than that affecting English students going to English universities. This at any rate is how the announcement of £9,000 per annum fees by Edinburgh University is being read.
This may look like, and may even be, a messy arrangement, but it is difficult to see how the government could have a voided a step of this kind. The decision is being challenged in the courts. But whatever the outcome of the hearing may be, this is not really judicial or legal question. It is one about the nature of society and the integrity of the nation. For better or for worse, the decisions by Scotland’s universities on RUK fees will attract some attention over the coming weeks.