Free tuition helps Scottish universities buck UK trend

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By a Newsnet reporter
 
Applications to study at Scottish Universities have risen by 0.25 per cent this year according to newly published figures.
 
The small rise in Scottish applications contrasts sharply with a dramatic 8.5% drop of the total applicants in England and a 9.3% drop in Wales.

The figures are contained in a report published by UCAS, the organisation responsible for managing applications to higher education courses in the UK.

The new figures show that applications to Scottish University’s from home based students fell slightly by 1.1% (427), meaning that Scottish Universities should be on track to maintain the total number of accepted applications from Scotland in the coming year.

The small drop in home based applicants was offset by a rise of almost one quarter from EU based students – the 24.7% rise up 6% on last year.

Although the number of students from England applying to study in Scotland has fallen (-5.6 per cent), it has done so at a far lower rate than in England where the introduction of tuition fees is believed to be behind a huge drop of almost 10% in the number of applications from home based English students.

Applications from people in Scotland to English universities are also down by almost 800 – a drop of 16.4%.

SNP MSP for Edinburgh Central Marco Biagi welcomed the figures which he said vindicated the SNP’s commitment to free education.
 
Commenting, Mr Biagi, a member of the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Culture Committee, said:
 
“These figures are a clear vindication of the SNP government’s determination to ensure that university education remains free for Scottish students.

“While sky-high tuition fees are obviously deterring significant numbers of prospective students from applying to universities south of the border, in tuition fee-free Scotland – even in the present very difficult economic circumstances –  young people who want to study still feel able to do so.
 
“This is obviously very good news for our university sector, which is being protected from falling student numbers, in contrast to their English and Welsh counterparts.
 
“More importantly, young people in Scotland can still apply to study at a Scottish university in the confidence that it is only their ability to learn and not their ability to pay that matters.

“Free university education ensures that our young people are still able to access opportunities for education, and that Scotland will continue to have the supply of skilled graduates that is vital for economic recovery.”

Mr Biaggi said that students in England and Wales had been “betrayed” first by Labour then by the Lib Dems over the introduction of fees as high as £9000.

He added:
 
“The principles of higher education in Scotland will remain the same under the SNP: protecting the outstanding reputation of Scotland’s university sector and ensuring access to education for young people from across Scottish society, regardless of their ability to pay.”