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NUS Scotland

The Michael Swann building, University of Edinburgh <em>Picture: Kay Williams</em>

The Michael Swann building, University of Edinburgh Picture: Kay Williams

What price a higher education? If Edinburgh University gets its way, £36,000 could be the answer – at least if you come from England, Wales or Northern Ireland.

That could make Edinburgh University the most expensive place to study in the UK – if, unlike Aberdeen and Heriot-Watt universities, it decides to charge the full £9,000 a year for the whole of a standard four-year degree, rather than for three years.

The three universities have all indicated that they plan to set their fees for rest of UK (RUK) residents at the highest level. Aberdeen and Heriot-Watt have already said that they will cap their fees at £27,000 for a course – even if it is of four years, the standard length in Scotland – putting them on a par with universities south of the border.

The announcements follow a decision by the Scottish government to let the universities set their own fees for RUK students. Consultation on the proposal ended last week. The fee levels being proposed are thus far “indicative” and will depend on the result of the consultation and any future legislation. But the universities say they plan to start charging those fees from next summer if given the green light.

In its election manifesto, the SNP promised not to introduce fees or a graduate tax for students living in Scotland. But the UK government decided to allow universities elsewhere in the UK to charge fees of up to £9,000. This prompted the education secretary, Mike Russell, to bring forward proposals which would let allow Scottish universities to set their own fees for students from England, Wales or Northern Ireland.

At the time, Mr Russell thought that fees in Scotland would fall in a range between the current £1,800 and £9,000, but said he expected levels to be lower than those south of the border.

In response to the announcements from the three universities, a Scottish government spokesman said that it was “up to individual universities to manage and set their fee levels for students from the rest of the UK, bearing in mind the need to be competitive and attractive to a broad range of students. It is in their interests, as well as Scotland’s, that we maintain the cosmopolitan character of our student population at the same time as making sure that opportunities for students who live in Scotland are protected.”

Although Edinburgh’s fees may be the highest in the UK, the university said that not all students would end up paying this high level because it would offer “the most generous bursary package within the UK for those on the lowest household incomes”. Students, it added, would be encouraged to go straight to the second year of a course. Professor Ian Diamond, principal of the University of Aberdeen, said last month that maintaining fees at the current level – about £1,800 a year for most degrees – was no longer possible.

Professor Mary Bownes, vice principal for external engagement at Edinburgh University, said that the increase in the fee was “necessary as we will no longer receive government funding for RUK domiciled students. These students will be studying at one of the world’s top teaching and research institutions, regularly ranked amongst the leading universities in the world.”

She added that a “generous” bursary package would be introduced for RUK students on the lowest household incomes. More than 50 per cent of additional tuition fee income will go towards bursaries with the remainder going towards enhancing the student experience.”

However, Matthew McPherson of the Edinburgh University Students’ Association, warned that there was “a damaging race to the top taking place in Scotland as universities believe they are holding up face and prestige by setting higher fee levels, but they are wrong. The prestige of Scotland’s higher education sector is based on the quality of its provision, not on the size of its charge.”

That view was shared by Graeme Kirkpatrick, depute president of NUS Scotland, who said that “the average cost to study at Oxford and Cambridge is around £25,000 in fees, which while still eye-wateringly large, pales in comparison with [Edinburgh’s proposed fees]. And that’s before you add additional debt for the extra year of living costs for the four-year degree in Scotland.”

He warned that this was “giving the signal that Edinburgh University is more interested in the money you can bring, as opposed to your academic ability. The reputational damage this could do, not only to Edinburgh but to the whole of Scottish higher education, should not be underestimated.”

It is not yet clear whether the change will ultimately go through, because human rights lawyers are preparing a case against the Scottish government, arguing that its decision could be discriminatory and in breach of human rights law.

A Birmingham-based firm, Public Interest Lawyers (PIL), was said last month to be seeking a judicial review of the policy. Solicitors preparing the case believe that Scottish ministers have misinterpreted the law. Under European Union law, universities throughout the EU cannot discriminate against members of other states. They have to charge foreign students the same fees as home students. PIL wants to challenge the Scottish government’s argument that England is not a “state” and so this law does not apply.

PIL points out that equality laws here in the UK, human rights legislation and EU law prohibit discrimination on the grounds of nationality. They will argue that RUK students should be treated the same as Scottish and EU students in Scotland. It is not certain if a case will come to court, but some 22,000 RUK students will be watching developments with interest.

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libdem1Scottish Liberal Democrats

Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats Tavish Scott launched the party’s Sports Action Plan after joining Spartans FC for a youth training session in Edinburgh. At the session, Mr Scott also expressed his support for Scottish sport by signing the “Vote for Sport” pledge, an initiative organised by the Scottish Sports Alliance which is encouraging MSPs to act as Scottish Sporting Champions during their time at Holyrood.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats have announced plans for a Scotland-wide school Olympics along with changes that would allow community organisations and co-operatives a greater say in the running of football and other sports.

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Commenting, Mr Scott said: “Sport is more than taking pride in the achievements of Scotland’s elite athletes. Sport should genuinely be for all. Our policies would provide people of all ages with more chances to get involved at both the local and national level. We would support the immense contribution volunteers make towards making sport accessible for as many people of all ages as is possible.

“Sport can bring people together in a way that few other things can and we need to be doing everything we can to ensure that we maximise the benefits it brings to Scotland.

“The training session I participated in this morning was what sport should be all about – people coming together to play their game in the right spirit and enjoy themselves.”

Brian McKelvie, chair of the Scottish Sports Association, said: “The campaign has been received very positively and it’s great to see such a demonstration of support for sport here at the Spartans Football Club with the Liberal Democrats.”

Commenting on Shelter Scotland’s analysis of the parties’ manifestos, Liberal Democrat election chair George Lyon said:

“We recognise the need for serious, long-term investment in Scotland’s housing stock, which is why we”ve identified £250 million for insulation of homes and buildings, cutting household energy bills and creating jobs. We”re pleased that Shelter recognises this substantial investment.

“We will also take steps to bring back into use the 70,000 homes lying empty in Scotland, with grants to homeowners who take this on, provided they allow housing associations to rent them out for 10 years. And we”ll extend programmes to help people who are struggling to get on the housing ladder, afford their first home.

“These are ambitious plans that will make a real difference to people in Scotland. “Providing decent housing is essential if we”re to meet our long-term ambitions for the economy, health and social well-being.”

greens2Scottish Greens

The Greens welcomed an Ipsos MORI poll showing the party on 6 per cent on the second vote, a result which would see a significantly larger group of Green MSPs elected to the Scottish parliament, and noted an additional question which asked Scots who they would like to see the next first minister work with. This second question shows that the Greens are the preferred post-election partners for both SNP and Labour voters.

Patrick Harvie said: “This election will answer two questions: who will be first minister, and who will they have to work with at Holyrood. Today’s poll indicates that both Labour or SNP voters would prefer to see their candidate for first minister working with Greens to deliver a fairer and more sustainable Scotland.

“Perhaps the worst outcome of this election would be a Scottish government dependent on one of the coalition parties driving the cuts agenda from Westminster. That way lies a continued assault on public services and an administration which pours cold water on Scotland’s economy. The only alternative to this bleak scenario is a strong second vote for the Scottish Greens.

“Overall this result shows the Greens as one of only two parties heading upwards in the polls. We’re running a positive campaign to defend public services, to guarantee the funding which can keep tuition free, and to insulate every home in Scotland, and we’re delighted to see this approach getting such a warm response.”

Scottish Greens also announced their plans for a true zero-waste Scotland, pledging to back communities across the regions fighting plans for a generation of mass-burn waste incinerators, and to scale-up support for local reuse and recycling initiatives. The Greens are the only party that consistently opposes these incinerators, and Greens are committed to revising the Scottish government’s waste strategy to bring in a moratorium on new facilities. The party argues that burning waste will significantly undermine recycling efforts by creating a built-in demand for waste.

The party will make the case in the next parliament for a strategy that reduces overall levels of waste at source, conserving valuable resources and creating more jobs in community reuse and repair projects, as well as supporting the local provision of recycling facilities. Greens would also pilot a packaging “deposit and return” scheme, which has resulted in very high recycling rates in countries such as Denmark and has long been pioneered with glass bottles by Barrs in Scotland.

Kirsten Robb, the Scottish Greens’ top candidate in Central region, announced the policy ahead of a public meeting on incineration organised by Greens in Stonehouse, a Lanarkshire community threatened by proposals for an incinerator.

Kirsten Robb said: “Scottish Greens have been on the side of local communities across Scotland who simply want a better solution when it comes to waste. Whether in Newton Mearns or Dunbar and from here in Stonehouse or Carnbroe right up to Invergordon, Greens support campaigners who are worried about the health of their families and who just want a safe and sustainable system for reducing waste. Incineration is part of the same old thinking, it’s ‘landfill in the sky’ for local authorities who are running out of space and facing millions of pounds in fines for not tackling the root causes of this problem.

“We want a Scotland that starts by reducing waste in the first place, not just burning it or sending it to landfill. There are hundreds of examples out there of community projects leading the way in sharing, repairing and reusing items, often saving people money in the process. We think that most people who shop in a supermarket would also agree that big retailers and manufacturers have got a long way to go to reduce packaging and stop pushing offers that increase food waste. Voters who want a party that is ambitious about a more sustainable and less wasteful Scotland should use their second vote to elect a strong group of Green MSPs to the next parliament.”

The Greens launched a mini-manifesto on issues relating to children, with policies including: the provision of free nursery education for all children aged from three upwards, commitments on universal free school meals and outdoor education, the introduction of a new School Grounds Enhancement Fund, support for the Active Schools and Eco-Schools programmes, support for home learning, and the introduction of child safety legislation with the aim of making Scotland the safest place to grow up in Europe.

Alison Johnstone, the Greens’ education spokesperson and top candidate in the Lothian region, said: “These policies are designed to give Scotland’s children the best start in life that we can possibly give them, by keeping them active, feeding them well, protecting them from harm and ensuring that they live, learn and grow up in a safe and sustainable society. The Scottish Greens recognise that today’s young people are tomorrow’s citizens and leaders, and that early interventions to make them as fit, healthy and happy as possible are important in helping them to become well-rounded and active members of Scottish society.

“Our children must not be wrapped up in cotton wool – we must give them the opportunity to explore and learn, and recognise their rights, as well as teaching them about their own responsibilities, to society and to the environment in which they live. If we get it right at the start, the rest just falls into place – active, healthy, happy children are far more likely to steer clear of crime, and to become happy and fulfilled members of society, so investing in them at an early age brings benefits and savings for the whole of society.”

labour3 Scottish Labour

Scottish Labour has reacted to an analysis of the Scottish Tories’ manifesto costings by NUS Scotland which has unearthed a black hole of between £500m and £1.5billion in their university spending plans.

Scottish Labour’s candidate for Eastwood, Ken Macintosh, said: “This revelation blows apart any plans the Tories had to balance their budget on the backs of students. Not only are the Tory plans to hit students in the pockets deeply unfair, their sums just don’t add up.

“The Tories must come clean on exactly how they are going to pay not only for their higher education polices, but their entire manifesto promises.

“Only yesterday an independent evaluation of the manifesto costings found that Labour’s was the only party that had balanced it budget. Now the Tories are back, Labour will not only balance the books, we ensure no price tag is attached to those who want to go onto university.”

The last thing David Cameron wants in Scotland is a Labour government, Scottish Labour said yesterday.

The comments come following a radio interview in which the prime minister neglected to encourage voters to vote the Tories on the constituency vote, despite the Tories fielding candidates in every constituency in Scotland.

The comments come following a radio interview in which the prime minister neglected to encourage voters to vote the Tories on the constituency vote, despite the Tories fielding candidates in every constituency in Scotland. In the Good Morning Scotland interview, the prime minister said: “…the more that the Conservatives get in terms of votes and seats in parliament the more influence Annabel will be able to bring to bear and because you have got this particular voting system where you’ve got your peach form as it were for the regional vote, I would urge people, whatever they do for the constituency vote to vote Conservative on the list vote because then we’ll get more Conservatives and more common sense in the parliament.”

Scottish Labour also pointed to one of its latest leaflets that highlight the fact that David Cameron secretly wants a SNP government.

Scottish Labour’s candidate in Dumfriesshire, Elaine Murray, said: “It is clear the last thing David Cameron wants in Scotland is a strong Labour government standing up to the Tories at Westminster. David Cameron has already arranged for the Tory’s favourite newspaper to back the SNP so it is hardly surprising than he even now even seems to be encouraging people to vote SNP.

“He seems to have given up.

“Now the Tories are back, it is only Labour that can fight Scotland’s corner and focus on the things that really matter like apprenticeships, jobs and getting Scotland back to work again.”

Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray has slammed the Tory and SNP campaigns as being “out of touch” with the lives of ordinary Scots, after David Cameron tried to play down the cuts that were being made in Scotland.

The prime minister’s comments came on the same morning that Alex Salmond was guest of honour at a breakfast banquet hosted by News International. Labour believe that News International are backing the SNP in Scotland because David Cameron fears a Labour win.

Speaking after campaigning with Gordon Brown in Fife yesterday, Iain Gray said: ”It is absolutely stunning that David Cameron has tried to downplay the impact of his cuts in Scotland. To try to make out that things are fine is just fantasy.

“10,000 Scots joined the dole queue this year, but Alex Salmond and David Cameron have a vested interest in pretending that everything is going fine. They are giving each other an easy ride, but it’s people in Scotland that will suffer as a result.

“The Tories and the SNP are out of touch. On the same morning that David Cameron was playing down the impact of the cuts, Alex Salmond was at a breakfast banquet with top Tory news executives. It’s clear that David Cameron wants the SNP to win in Scotland.

“The Tories and the SNP are out of touch. On the same morning that David Cameron was playing down the impact of the cuts, Alex Salmond was at a breakfast banquet with top Tory news executives. It’s clear that David Cameron wants the SNP to win in Scotland. “Meanwhile, I was in Fife campaigning with Gordon Brown and talking to people about the things that really matter. We were talking to people that were concerned about jobs and we explained how Labour would abolish youth unemployment and create a quarter of a million jobs.

“People in Scotland will be very suspicious of an out of touch SNP that seems to be getting closer and closer to David Cameron’s Tories as each day in this campaign goes by.”

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scotcon2 Scottish Conservatives

A poll in yesterday’s Scotsman has shown that two-thirds of Scots back a graduate contribution of up to £4,000 to the cost of their university education. The poll came on the on the same day that NUS Scotland attacked Scottish Conservative proposals for a graduate contribution towards the cost of their degree.

David McLetchie, Scottish Conservative campaign manager for the Scottish parliament election, said of the poll: “This is more evidence, after last year’s Scottish Social Attitudes Survey, that Scots are fair minded and accept that it is fair for graduates to make a contribution towards the cost of their university education. It is clear that, regardless of which party they support, people are in favour of this.

“In a perfect world everything would be free. But in the real world, voters accept that the costs have to be spread.

“Recent figures from the Office of National Statistics showed that, on average, a university graduate will earn £12,000 a year more than those who have not gone to university. Over a working life, that is a pay boost of half a million pounds.

“Despite all the evidence, Labour, Lib Dems and the SNP refuse to find the money needed to bridge the real funding gap. Scottish Conservative proposals for a graduate contribution, paid from future earning, at an affordable rate will mean that Scotland’s universities can retain their excellence, retain their student numbers and we can also boost bursary support for students from poorer backgrounds by £55 million a year.

“By contrast, the deficit deniers in the other parties threaten our universities’ standing, threaten up to 13,000 student places and are out of tune with public opinion.”

On the statement yesterday by the NUS Scotland, Mr Brownlee said: “This attack from NUS Scotland is just not credible. On this evidence, NUS Scotland appears happy to sit by and see student numbers reduced and Scottish universities enter into a spiral of decline. If we listen to NUS Scotland, then universities will face a black hole in their funding.

“We have made clear that for the lifetime of the parliament, we would cap the graduate contribution at £4,000. NUS Scotland has got so many assumptions wrong in their haste to attack Scottish Conservative plans to safeguard student numbers and increase bursary support, that their claims cannot be taken seriously.

“Only yesterday, the independent CPPR (Centre for Public Policy for Regions) report from Glasgow University said that alone of the parties only the Scottish Conservatives were looking at plans to secure the necessary support for higher and further education without ‘accepting a slow, gradual, decline in the standard of Scottish post school education and research’.”

snp1 SNP

First minister and Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond attacked David Cameron over Scotland’s near-£200 million fossil fuel levy, in an article in the Courier during his visit north of the border, where he said that the UK government are giving Scotland £250 million of resources for the Green Investment Bank.

Mr Salmond pointed out that the UK government are refusing to hand over the Fossil Fuel Fund without deducting the same amount from the Scottish budget, and that Scotland would be due far more than £250 million from the Green Investment Bank given the advanced nature of our renewables industry in Scotland.

Mr Salmond said: “It is typically Tory to try to short-change Scotland with our own money.

“The Con/Dem coalition are refusing to hand over Scotland’s fossil fuel levy – worth nearly £200 million – without clawing the cash back from the Scottish budget. This money could and should be used to power forward the renewable energy sector in Scotland, helping to reindustrialise the nation, including developing ports around Scotland such as Dundee.

“Pro-rata, Scotland has ten times the renewable energy capacity as England, and we are due far more than £250 million from the Green Investment Bank – regardless of the fossil fuel levy, which should be wholly additional to the Scottish budget.

“The SNP will fight for Scotland’s resources – Labour failed to deliver the fossil fuel levy, the Con/Dems are also pauchling the money, and a re-elected SNP government would have a mandate to get it handed over at long last.”

The Scottish National Party welcomed an Ipsos MORI poll in the Times and the Scottish Sun which puts the SNP ahead on 45 per cent in the constituency vote to 34 per cent for Labour, and shows 42 per cent of Scots backing Alex Salmond for first minister on the list vote with only 32 per cent backing Labour.

The poll shows a 5 per cent swing to the SNP since the last Mori poll in February, and gives the SNP its highest poll rating in this campaign, whilst Labour’s rating is at its lowest since May 2010 (31 per cent, YouGov 3-4 May).

Commenting on the poll, SNP campaign director Angus Robertson said: “This is an excellent poll, and confirms that more and more people are considering voting SNP – many for the first time – because they want to re-elect the SNP government and Alex Salmond for first minister.

“We are taking nothing for granted, and will contest the remaining two weeks of the campaign as a close two-horse race. We will continue working hard to earn the trust and support of the people for the SNP’s record, team and vision for Scotland.”

The poll result comes as Tommy Brennan, one of Scotland’s trade union leaders, has endorsed Alex Salmond’s re-election as first minister – citing Mr Salmond’s “inspiring goal” to re-industrialise Scotland by leading the world in renewable energy technology.

Mr Brennan was works convener of the Ravenscraig shop stewards, and the man who led the fight to save the Scottish steel industry in the 1980s and 1990s. He worked at the Lanarkshire steel plant for 31 years until 1991.

Mr Brennan said: “Alex Salmond’s vision for Scotland is one all Scots should support. I’m delighted to endorse him for a second term as first minister.

“I remember only too well the pain caused by the de-industrialisation of Scotland under the Tories in the 1980s and 1990s, and believe that Alex Salmond’s ambition to re-industrialise Scotland by leading the renewables energy revolution is an insipring goal for young Scots and for jobs and industry in the 21st century.”

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Scottish Conservative Education Spokesman Liz Smith yesterday branded Labour’s claim that they have met NUS Scotland’s three campaign demands as “unbelieveable”.

“This is a phony pledge from Iain Gray and Labour,” Ms Smith said. “On radio this morning, their finance spokesman said Labour was filling a £114 million gap in university funds.

“Yesterday, one of their former education spokesmen said the gap was £93 million. They are all over the place. But since the real gap is over £200 million pounds, Labour’s case is crumbling. There is not just a gap in their funding, there is a gap in their credibility.Their pretence that they can meet the NUS triple pledge is a fallacy. Labour’s sums don’t add up. Iain Gray is, quite literally, unbelievable.

“The Scottish Conservatives are the only Party to tell it like it is. We reject upfront tuition fees. We will protect student numbers and we will boost bursary support by £55 million a year.

“Labour’s dodgy arithmetic threatens thousands of university places being lost. It is time they told the truth.”

Ms Smith also commented on figures realeased yesterday by the Office for National Statistics which show that people with degrees earned an average of £12,000 a year more than non-graduates over the past decade.

Liz Smith said: “These statistics show that those who have gained a university degree are more likely to earn a higher yearly salary as a result of holding that qualification. They also highlight how Scottish Conservative proposals for a graduate contribution will make university funding more progressive and fair.

“If we are to maintain the high standards of our Universities, and ensure that we sustain current student numbers and continue to widen access we must secure an additional source of funding. It is only fair that graduates contribute to the cost of their degree.”

Ms Smith was joined by Scottish Conservative leader, Annabel Goldie, as she visited Perth. The Tory leader called for a Business Start Up Fund which will give real help to Scotland’s budding entrepreneurs.

“Scottish Conservatives have always valued the vital contribution of entrepreneurs and small business to our economy,” Ms Goldie said, “That’s why in the most recent budget we secured £10m for business start ups, job creation and exporting which was part of a package which will create over 10,000 jobs. But we can do more.

“The rate of business start ups and entrepreneurial activity in Scotland has flatlined since the advent of devolution, at a rate lower than that of the UK overall. That is why we will create a Scottish Business Start Up Fund to support individuals access to enterprise education, vocational training, and to provide grants and loans to assist in the creation of new businesses. Over the next four years, this will have funding of £154 million to boost the economy.

“Scottish Conservatives are also committed to delivering a step change in enterprise education in Scotland. Research from the Hunter Centre suggests that enterprise education doubles the likelihood of an individual becoming an entrepreneur. We will achieve this by making it compulsory to offer enterprise training at all colleges and universities, in partnership with local businesses.

“It is common sense to put our faith in our entrepreneurs so we nurture new businesses, design new products and create new jobs. The only way to pull Scotland out of Labour’s debt legacy is to grow the private sector. That is where the jobs of the future will come from and that is what we are committed too.”

The Scottish Conservatives also intend to create a new dedicated cabinet-level Minister for Enterprise and Jobs, taking responsibility for enterprise, planning, transport and infrastructure. This post will replace the two existing junior ministerial posts.

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Photo by: Pete Ford

Photo by: Pete Ford

The prospect of a graduate tax in Scotland came a step closer this morning when student leaders and one of the country’s senior university figures both said the move would have to be considered.
NUS Scotland said it would be willing to discuss a greater financial contribution from students to their own education – but only if a number of key demands were met, including greater funding from the Scottish Government.
While Professor Anton Muscatelli, the Principal of the University of Glasgow, said a graduate tax could be a way of solving the financial crisis facing universities.
Student tuition fees were abolished during the first term of the Lab-Lib Scottish Executive between 1999 and 2003, but a graduate endowment was introduced in its place.
This placed an obligation on students to repay about £2,000 towards the cost of their university education once they graduated and were earning a reasonable wage.
But that was abolished in turn by the current SNP administration when it emerged that most students simply added it on to their student loans because they did not have the money to pay it.
Now, though, with Scottish universities facing the double threat of a cash squeeze from government and the greater spending power of English institutions, which have much more money because English students pay tuition fees, Scottish universities are starting to think about returning to some form of graduate payment.
In a letter to staff two weeks ago, Glasgow University said it would run out of money by 2013 unless action was taken to raise money and increase savings.
Prof Muscatelli said today that he believed upfront fees were incompatible with the concept of free higher education in Scotland – but that did not rule out some form of graduate tax.
He said: “Unless the public sector wants to make higher education a top priority then we have to look at other solutions and this could be either a graduate contribution or it could be a graduate tax. But we have to look at all of these alternatives.
“Graduate taxation would be a tax that applied only to graduates after they graduate and based on ability to pay and a graduate contribution would be very similar in some respects.”
Prof Muscatelli suggested that some of the money raised could provide bursaries for students who need extra help but he stressed that the debate was not one for universities alone but for the whole of society and “how it invests in higher education”.
Liam Burns, the president of NUS Scotland, is due to speak to a conference today in Edinburgh on higher education. He set out his thinking to The Herald newspaper today.
He said: “We’re not naïve enough to think spending cuts won’t affect Scotland, but it is important to remember that, currently, we spend far less in public funds than many of our competitors in Europe.
“In addition, while businesses in Scotland benefit greatly from access to our world-class graduates, students are paying through the nose in terms of commercial credit, student loans, working too many hours – and even dropping out. Businesses currently have no structured way to contribute and we must look at the principle of businesses supporting higher education in a structured way.”
Mr Burns said that, after a serious discussion about a greater Government and business contribution “we would at least be open” to looking at a graduate contribution.
Mr Burns added: “It’s time we discussed how those who get a genuine financial benefit from higher education – whether Government, business or graduates – can contribute in a genuinely fair and progressive way to ensure those who otherwise wouldn’t get to go to university can do so.
“A graduate contribution could only be considered if it was fair and progressive, increased the amount of money the poorest students have while they’re studying, and kicks in only when and if a graduate sees a genuine financial benefit from their education.”
The conference on higher education is being organised by the Scottish Conservative Party.
Liz Smith, education spokeswoman for the Scottish Conservative Party, believes a greater contribution from graduates is now necessary. She is expected to tell today’s conference that the status quo for funding in Scotland is “no longer tenable”.
“If we are to preserve and enhance the international reputation of which we are naturally very proud, the case for change is overwhelming,” she said. “So too, we believe, is the case for some form of student contribution.”
Ms Smith will argue that is a “compelling case” for a deferred fee system, rather than up-front tuition fees or a graduate tax. That would see a graduate pay a contribution based on the cost of their course, rather than a blanket tax.