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SNP must honour free education pledge, says union

28 June 2011

UCU Scotland called on Mike Russell, cabinet secretary for education, to rule out introducing variable fees in Scotland. The SNP has promised that fees will not be introduced in Scotland but today's proposed changes to charges for students from Wales, Northern Ireland and England not only introduces fees, but also opens up competition for other UK students based on the cost of a degree.

In a statement* to the Scottish Parliament, Mike Russell stated that universities could charge variable fees for other UK students up to £9,000 a year. This effectively introduces the English system in Scotland and goes against the SNP promise on tuition fees.

UCU is concerned that the move could bring chaos to the admissions system as universities attempt to set fees at different levels to maximise this extra funding stream from English students. UCU believes that a fixed fee, which is financially neutral for individual universities, is a better option.

UCU Scotland President, Gordon Watson, said: 'UCU opposes fees and this change would go against the SNP commitment on fees. It is perverse that the SNP, who fought an election on the promise of no tuition fees, can justify introducing an English system for other UK students in Scotland.

'The present fee level was set after careful consideration bearing in mind the costs of studying in Scotland and including the probability of an extra year of study. This ensured consistency on the numbers of English students and ensured extra funding went back into the higher education budget. The proposal to have variable fees introduces a market for English students and a possible disincentive to recruit Scottish students.'

*In Mike Russell's Ministerial Statement on Higher Education in the Scottish Parliament on 29 June he announced a consultation on his plans on fees for other UK students.

Last updated: 11 December 2015