By Bob Duncan
A new European Commission report has revealed that England is home to the highest student fees in Europe, in contrast to Scotland where the principle of free education puts us firmly in the mainstream of Europe.
The cost of higher education for students varies dramatically in Europe, according to the new report issued by the European Commission today.
Tuition fees are the highest in south of the border, where students pay up to £9000 per academic year, while nine countries from across Europe do not charge any fees in most cases, putting Scotland alongside places like Austria, Denmark, Norway and Sweden.
The Nordic countries tend to be the most generous, although Finland and Sweden recently joined Denmark in introducing fees for international students. All countries, except Iceland and Norway, now charge non-European students.
The report shows that many of the non-charging countries, such as Austria, Scotland and the Nordic countries, also provide generous student support such as maintenance grants and loans.
This information on tuition fees and support is now readily available online for students who want to compare the cost of their education in different European countries.
Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth said:
“I hope the fact that it is now easier for students to compare the cost of education in different countries will lead to increased student mobility and allow students to choose the course that is best for them.
“This report is both timely and important: it reminds us that modernised education and training is the bedrock of long-term prosperity for Europe and key for overcoming our economic difficulties.”
Recent figures from UCAS showed markedly different application trends in Scotland where numbers were being maintained compared to the sharp falls that have taken place south of the border thanks to tuition fees of up to £9,000 a year.
In fact, 25,000 fewer students enrolled in Universities in England and Wales this year, a drop of over 6%, compared with 12 months ago before the latest rise in fees was implemented.
SNP MSP Joan McAlpine who sits on the Education and Culture Committee said:
“This report makes it abundantly clear just how out of step with the rest of Europe the system of sky-high tuition fees south of the border truly is.
“The contrast between Scotland, where the principle of free education puts us firmly at the heart of Europe, and England, which is home to the highest fees in Europe, could not be clearer.
“With students being asked to pay more to go to University than anywhere else on the continent, it is no wonder that recent figures showed applications south of the border plummeting.
“Like much of the rest of Europe the SNP firmly believes that education should be based on the ability to learn, not the ability to pay.
“It is an essential part of ensuring we have the skills necessary to prosper as a nation and is a critical part of economic recovery.
“Scotland’s independent education system puts us at the heart of Europe, instead of the periphery where we would be if the Westminster government was in charge.
“With the powers of an independent Scotland, we would be also able to take up a similar position in the mainstream of Europe on a host of other issues.”