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Scottish Conservatives: SNP Higher education funding case is fatally flawed

The First Minister has admitted than his plans to fund Universities in Scotland depends on relying on students from the rest of the UK paying more, and the taxpayers picking up the tab whatever the cost.

At the recent Scotsman Leaders’ Debate, Alex Salmond said: “We will do whatever it takes to maintain free education”.

He also claimed that “If there was no £9,000 fees in England, there would be no [funding] gap.”

And a bigger black hole in the SNP has sums has now emerged: SNP policy is dependent upon students from the rest of the UK stumping up to study in Scotland. But in an independent Scotland, that would be illegal.

Liz Smith, Scottish Conservative Education Spokesperson, said:

“The SNP case is fatally flawed. Firstly, there was a funding gap with universities south of the border before higher fees were introduced.

“Secondly, in an independent Scotland, students from the rest of the UK would be EU students and would have to get the same deal as Scottish students, so under the SNP plans the income stream would dry up and the funding gap would grow.

“Thirdly, if fees are such a deterrent, then fewer students from the rest of the UK will come to Scotland – and the funding gap will grow. Alex Salmond cannot argue on the one hand that cost is a deterrent to Scots studying here – then claim it is not a deterrent to students from other parts of the United Kingdom coming here. He cannot have it both ways.

“Finally, Alex Salmond is telling the taxpayer in Scotland that they will foot the bill, ‘whatever it takes’. That means he is content for the taxes of those not going to University to pay all the costs of those who do.

“The fact that so many universities south of the border want fees at the higher end proves just how much extra money is needed to be competitive. It also means that all these universities will have to commit to much larger bursary support than is currently the case.

“Alex Salmond needs to wake up and face the facts. The black hole in his sums is growing, and his solutions only make it worse. His fantasy economics have been found out.”


The conclusion of the Technical Group was that if fees for RUK students (i.e. English, Welsh and NI) were to be increased to £6,375 per year and the number of these students was to remain constant, then the increased fee would generate an extra £62 million per year by 2014/15.

However, it is neither fair nor prudent to use RUK students as cash cows in order to maintain ‘free’ university places for Scottish and EU students.  By having a differential fee level for RUK students which is disproportionately higher than what will be expected of Scottish or EU students, there is a risk that students from other parts of the UK, resentful of being made to pay higher fees in order that Scottish and EU students receive a free education, will be deterred from applying. 

If this fee regime results in fewer RUK students attending Scottish universities this will mean that Scottish universities will not generate the extra £62 million which the Technical Group calculated, a dangerous preposition considering how reliant the SNP and the Labour Party have made universities on this extra revenue as part of their proposals to maintain ‘free’ university degrees in Scotland.

Posted by Scottish Conservatives

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