Yet more devolved discrimination

Edinburgh and St Andrews Universities, which are the most popular in Scotland with students from the rest of the UK,  have decided to charge  £36,000 for a four-year course- their degree courses will be the most expensive in the nation.

The SNP’s Education Secretary  Mike Russell has (bearing in mind his party is the architect of the discriminatory tuition fee policy) hypocritically criticised the two institutions.

 Robin Parker, president of the National Union of Students in Scotland, said:

“We’re deeply disappointed that fees for students from the rest of the UK studying in Scotland will go ahead as planned.

“The average degree in Scotland will be more than the maximum allowed in England, and we’ll have two institutions where £36,000 degrees will be the norm – way above the typical degree cost in England.

“We cannot accept the excesses we’ve seen from some Scottish principals for this coming year, with mortgage-level degree costs and no protection for widening access for students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland.”

However, the Northern Ireland Conservatives’ spokesperson, Annika Nestius-Brown has raised an interesting point with regards students born in Northern Ireland and wanting to study in Scotland:

“We’d previously flagged up what appears to be a glaring loophole in the rules for Scottish universities, and it now appears that universities’ admissions departments themselves believe that an Irish passport will entitle students from Northern Ireland to free tuition, while Northern Irish students holding a British passport will have to pay.  It is outrageous that one student from Northern Ireland may be able to get their course for free, while their next door neighbour could be charged £27,000 for the same degree at the same university, just because they hold a British passport rather than one from the Republic of Ireland.  In fact it’s difficult to imagine a more straight forward case of discrimination.”

“The Scottish Government must clarify immediately whether the qualifying criterion for free fees is residency in another EU country or simply holding another state’s passport.  The confusion emphasises how absurd and discriminatory the developing situation around university fees is – with different prices for students from different regions of the UK.”

“It’s wrong that English, Northern Irish or Welsh students should have to pay more than Scottish students, or those from elsewhere in the EU, to take degrees in Scotland.  It’s absurd that Scottish, Welsh and English students should have to pay more than Northern Irish students or those from the Republic of Ireland, for example, to take a degree in Northern Ireland. 

Not sure the DUP would agree with that last comment… but even they (hopefully) wouldn’t argue with this one:

And it’s absolutely preposterous that some universities are indicating one student from Northern Ireland may be charged £27,000 for their degree, while another gets it for free because they hold an Irish passport! 

 

  • Tearlach

    As a starting point – I’m interested in the asseveration that NI Students with an Irish Passport will have their fees paid. I’d like to see evidence of that, as – as far as I’m aware – its all based on residence. So someone from Belfast would be in same boat as someone from Oxford if they wanted to study in Scotland, no matter what their passport said.

    On a wider point its not discrimination, its a just a odd little by-product of the UK’s rather strange constitutional set up vis a vis the rest of the world, as defined by EU law. Yet as a Scottish taxpayer whose tax pounds for the Scottish state ends being up significantly top-sliced by the UK Government before being rather grudgingly passed back to the Scottish Government through the Block Grant, I’m pretty unhappy by my block grant being used to fund the education for people form other parts of the UK where Scottish Universities cannot claw that money back, except by simply doing what the UK Government has done and charged fees for students.

    Remember none of this has come from Scotland, Scottish Ministers or the Scottish Government. Fees were introduced by Westminster – simple.

    There the two simple answers that solve this problem for NI residents that want to study in Scotland – 1 – Scotland achieves independence – 2 NI becomes a part of the rest of Ireland.

    Back to you.

  • looper

    Hmmmm… not sure this ‘loophole’ is true. I think it is based on your country of residence when applying.

    If this wasn’t the case and a student applied using Irish nationality would this exempt them from the UK Student Loan system or would their country of residence upon application still allow eligibility for a student loan/grant?

  • Tearlach/Looper,

    Re the “country of residence”, if you look at the last quotation I posted, you will see this is what is being told prospective students by some universities’ admission departments.

    If even the admissions departments are confused then, at the very least, the SNP needs to clarify the situation.

    Tearlach,

    On a wider point its not discrimination, its a just a odd little by-product of the UK’s rather strange constitutional set up vis a vis the rest of the world, as defined by EU law.

    I am as much part of the European Union as somebody born in Sevilla or Marseille or Warsaw- yet they are being treated differently and in a more preferential way by the SNP than I am. That’s discrimination anyway you want to look at it.

    Yet as a Scottish taxpayer whose tax pounds for the Scottish state ends being up significantly top-sliced by the UK Government before being rather grudgingly passed back to the Scottish Government through the Block Grant, I’m pretty unhappy by my block grant being used to fund the education for people form other parts of the UK where Scottish Universities cannot claw that money back, except by simply doing what the UK Government has done and charged fees for students.

    How do you feel then about your universities subsidising the free education of EU citizens- you’re happy to pay for their education but not that of your fellow UK citizens’ ?

    And interestingly enough, the figure released this week show that Scots applying to study at Scottish universities has fallen by 16.2 per cent compared with last year, while there has been a 7.6 per cent decline from English students. So the policy looks like producing the worst of both worlds- less Eng, NI and Welsh students and less Scottish students.

    Remember none of this has come from Scotland, Scottish Ministers or the Scottish Government. Fees were introduced by Westminster – simple.

    Westminster imposed dual and discriminatory fees standards on Scotland? Really?

    There the two simple answers that solve this problem for NI residents that want to study in Scotland – 1 – Scotland achieves independence – 2 NI becomes a part of the rest of Ireland.

    Not that simple.

    1. Scotland becomes independent, the SNP is guaranteeing free education for everybody then (from Scotland, the EU, the rest of the UK)? Is that policy?
    2. Geographically NI is already part of the island of Ireland but I guess you mean politically. If the passport point is correct, then a much easier and cheaper option for everybody concerned would be for NI students simply to get an ROI passport and use it for this specific purpose.

  • Dewi

    3 years residence I think.

  • First, if only a passport is needed then it is not beyond our middle classes, even unionists, to obtain a passport. A small gesture if there is a cost saving of a magnitude that even being frozen out of the loan structure.

    Second, if residency is a point, another interesting one will be those living in the Republic who send their kids to schools in Northern Ireland (believe this is particularly the case in the North West) where the granny’s address is used to access the school system. In that case no matter the passport, the residency contradicts.

    Finally, the big issue is the fall in students attending Scottish Universities. Historically, Scotland has an oversupply of places which were then taken by mostly Northern Irish – at one Uni up to one third of the intake, and of course English. So the bigger risk for the Scots, on the numbers above, would be a policy that ultimately reduces Uni places available in Scotland to all. Probably not an intended consequence.

  • OneNI

    Mmmm I think my kids have just taken up ‘residency’ in their uncle’s house in Donegal!!
    What a load of nonsense.
    All UK citizens should be treated the same regardless of where they reside or go to university.
    Are the DUP still defending this crazy set up?

  • Simon Doyle at the Irish News has a follow-up on the story.
    As it is behind paywall, I can’t link but the three most relevant parts are:

    1.SAAS (Student Awards Agency Scotland):
    Even if students can’t provide an address in the ROI, they “may still be eligible for payment”

    2.The SNP:
    “in essence” those with Irish passports will be treated as EU nationals

    3. University of Glasgow:
    “appeared Irish passport-holding students would qualify for EU fees in Scotland”

    So, clear as mud.

  • DougtheDug

    Student fees were imposed by Westminster on the entire UK.

    Since the English spend on student fees has disappeared then the Barnett consequential for Scotland has also disappeared and there is no component in Scotland’s budget which has been derived from spending on student fees in England as this sum has fallen to zero.

    What the Scottish Government has done is to use money from other parts of its budget, either by reducing the actual costs or by efficiency savings, to fund the university fees of Scottish based students. In other words the rest of Scottish public services are funding student fees out of the money allocated via the Block Grant from Westminster which does not contain a student fees component.

    When people call for students from outside Scotland to be given free university tuition what they are saying is that although Northern Ireland, Wales and especially England refuse to fully fund their students Scotland should however fund these students when they study in Scotland out of the budget cuts and efficiency savings Scotland has made in its own budget.

    If England, Wales and Northern Ireland refuse to fully fund their students why should the burden fall on Scotland when these students study in Scotland when these countries have not made the same level of sacrifices in their budgets?

    In essence they refuse to fully fund their own students but want Scotland to do it. They want their cake and to eat it too. If these other regions of the UK believe that their students should have all their university fees paid in Scotland or elsewhere then like Scotland they should budget accordingly and pay them out of the savings they make in their budgets, not Scotland’s.

    On the passport issue, EU students have a right to the the same grants and funding as students in the country they are studying in. It’s not a residency issue. In England they have to pay fees, in Scotland they don’t.

  • I can’t see them allowing that loophole to continue. There are millions of people of Irish descent in England who can get an Irish passport so it’s not just a case of people from NI being able to take advantage of it.
    I wonder though how you can prove residency. Both Ireland and the UK are very sloppy on this point. In many countries yu have to register with the council and and deregister if you move. In Ireland I was on the electoral register until my father actively removed me. I have studied and worked in the UK at various times and I didn’t have to register myself in any structured fashion.
    Sure, there are indirect ways to determine residency (w.g. schooling) but even then it is not so straightforward. Am I an English resident if I attend a boarding school in England but live the rest of the year in Ireland?
    If they just accept an Irish passport as enough to waive fees then the Irish Passports Office can expect busy times ahead.

  • DougtheDug

    oranje:

    I wasn’t quite clear in my previous post that there is a residency requirement but not a UK residency requirement.

    The only residency required for the payment of Scottish tuition fees, (but not other forms of financial support), to any non-UK EU national is that they have been resident in the EU, not the UK, but the EU for the last three years.

    http://www.saas.gov.uk/student_support/eu_students/2001_or_later/eligibility.htm

    If residents of Northern Ireland choose an Irish passport then they will be considered as having dual nationality but I suspect the Scottish Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS) will treat any UK citizen who had dual citizenship as a UK citizen whatever other passport they hold so the rush for Irish passports will be pointless.