The debate about the reintroduction of tuition fees is not just taking place in Ireland, but is also a hot topic in Scotland. As readers of this blog may know, Scotland has not followed the lead taken in England, where fees were reintroduced and gradually increased after the report of the National Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education (the ‘Dearing Report‘). Instead, from 2000 the Scottish government has maintained a system of higher education that is free at the point of entry.
Over recent years Scottish universities have become increasingly concerned about the capacity of the Scottish government to maintain funding for the sector that could match the resources now available to English universities. Now the former Principal of Edinburgh University, Lord Sutherland, has suggested that the relatively low number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds studying at Scottish universities suggests that there should be a re-consideration of tuition fees. It seems unlikely that there will be a change of mind on this on the part of the Scottish government, at least for the immediate future, but the issue may become the subject of a more lively debate there also. No doubt there will also be some interest in Scotland in whatever is decided in this context in Ireland.