Free Scottish degree anyone? (English & Welsh need not apply!)
So the Scottish Parliament has announced that if you have an Irish passport you are eligible for free University tuition within Scotland. As someone who went to University in Edinburgh this topic is particularly close to my heart!
In 2000 Scotland replaced fees with a graduate endowment scheme whereby all Scottish students studying in Scotland would have their fees paid upfront by the government and the students would gradually repay just £2000 once they had graduated and earned a salary of more than £10k. In 2007 the Scottish government abolished the graduate endowment giving Scottish students studying in Scotland free tuition fees with no repayment.
Under EU rules, students coming to Scotland from other European countries have to be treated in the same way as Scottish students so they also get free University tuition when studying in Scotland but this rule doesn’t apply to other UK countries. However, the announcement regarding Irish passport holders has now opened up the debate again – the Republic of Ireland is not part of the UK and is therefore eligible for free Scottish education however anyone born in Northern Ireland which is part of the UK can choose dual Nationality and get an Irish passport which under this announcement would grant them free tuition. To add further fuel to the fire a Scottish government spokesman has also confirmed that nationality not residence was the key when it came to defining an EU student, and that anyone with an Irish passport living anywhere in the UK could apply for free tuition.
So in real terms its probably easier to talk about who in Europe doesn’t qualify for free tuition..that will be the English and the Welsh – is that not discrimination? I understand that the Scottish Government wanted to look after their students but as they legally have to include the rest of Europe surely it should be all or nothing?
Currently, nearly 16,000 EU students attend Scottish education establishments, costing the taxpayer £75m a year. They have seen a 6% rise in the number of EU students applying to its universities to study this autumn, while applications to other UK universities fell by as much as 16.5%.
I was the only English person on my course, everyone else was Scottish, after all why would they want to travel a couple of hundred miles South for a degree with a £27k price tag when the best things in life, for them, are free?!