Loss of international student fees threatens free tuition in Scotland

Unis are already facing financial losses

Scottish universities are in danger of losing their ability to provide free tuition to Scottish students.

Scottish universities receive government funding for every Scottish student they admit, but the full cost of their degrees is in part subsidised by international students.

Professor Nigel Seaton, principal of Abertay University in Dundee, writes for The Times that it is highly unlikely that Scottish universities will receive necessary international enrollment to maintain this financial model “at least for some years.”

Compared to free tuition for Scottish students, international students admitted to the University of Edinburgh for the 2019/2020 academic year were charged £19,800 in tuition fees.

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Scottish universities are already facing major financial losses due to the pandemic.

The principal of St Andrews University, Professor Sally Mapstone, wrote in a letter to staff: “The university is already facing a hole in our financial position of over £25 million this year … made up of losses in research grants through the lockdown period, the loss of conference and accommodation rentals over the summer, and our decision to act in a socially responsible manner by being one of the first universities in the UK to release students from their accommodation contracts.”

In response this concern, a spokesperson for the Scottish government has said: “We remain committed to free higher education for Scots-domiciled students and access to university being based on the ability to learn, not the ability to pay … we fully realise the detriment losing international students from our education system … and we are working to find solutions in partnership with universities and colleges.”

However, Seaton thinks any new system will come at the expense of the Scottish taxpayer.

He writes: “From now on we will get the higher education system that we, in Scotland are willing to pay for.”