Thursday, January 08, 2004

Apartheid – alive and well and living in the non-united, United Kingdom.

Alfie’s latest wizard wheeze appears to have been scuppered by a judicious body swerve from those tartan meanies, north of the border.

Skint Alfie, sucked dry by Chancellor Gordon Brown’s severe internal examination of his wallet, thought he had managed to solve the tricky problem of getting his other 3 kids through Uni’ without having to pay for the criminal ‘Top up fee filch’.

Naïve, trusting, skint, John Prescott-worshipping Alfie muses…
"I’ll send them to a Scottish Uni. After all, my centrally collected taxes help to pay for Education for the whole of the UK. Top up fees just apply to England – so to avoid them, I'll send them to Scotland … because I expect Education opportunities to be available UK wide - for citizens of the UK".

Apparently not if this article written by Jason Allardyce from Scotland on Sunday is to be believed. (reproduced in full)

If you've got the time. read it in full - it will surely depress you


ENGLISH students will be charged up to £9,000 more than Scottish undergraduates to study north of the Border under controversial plans drawn up by university chiefs.

Universities Scotland, which represents the country’s higher education sector, says the move is essential to stop universities being swamped by English students trying to escape top-up fees.

The plan - which has been condemned as anti-English and an educational Hadrian’s Wall - would be implemented if Tony Blair won his battle to let universities south of the Border charge up to £3,000 a year in fees.

The proposed Scottish charge on English undergraduates would be applied across the four-year degree course, equalling the top-up fees paid south of the Border over three years.

Scottish educationalists are worried that the introduction of top-up fees in England will spark an exodus north among students looking for a cheaper education, potentially depriving Scots of a university place in their own country.

There are already around 20,000 students from other parts of the UK among the 200,000 who study at Scottish universities.

Universities Scotland has submitted its plan to a Holyrood inquiry into the impact of English top-up fees on Scotland.

Although English students in Scotland would face a financial penalty, those from elsewhere in the European Union would be exempt from the charges.

This is because under European law it is permissible to discriminate against citizens within a member state like the United Kingdom, but not against those from other EU members.

If the funding plan is approved by the Scottish Executive and the level of English students remains broadly as it is now the change could raise around £45m a year for Scottish institutions.

That could help pay for better wages and facilities for the brightest university staff and limit the brain drain to better funded English institutions.

David Caldwell, the director of Universities Scotland, said it was important that Scotland should continue to be perceived as an attractive destination by students from outside its own borders.

But he said it was crucial that Scottish students were not displaced. He said: "There is a broad agreement among principals in Scotland that we want to continue to encourage students to come from every part of the UK, but not at the expense of reducing opportunities for those who live in Scotland.

"We want to attract students from elsewhere but we don’t want them to come to Scotland just because it is cheaper. If they come to Scotland they should pay the same sort of fee they would expect if they were studying in England."

It is understood that an alternative option of capping numbers from England or a quota system to protect Scottish student levels has been ruled out.

Universities Scotland, which is funded by the 21 Scottish universities and colleges of higher education, concedes that charging English students more could lead to a "perverse incentive" where some Scottish institutions increasingly target English students in order to boost their revenue.

Scottish principals are concerned that unless they benefit from similar revenues to their English counterparts they could lose some of their brightest staff who head south for better pay and facilities.

The universities want the Executive to award them over £100m to help close the funding gap they say has opened up between the centres of learning north and south of the Border.

The latest intervention will place added pressure on Jack McConnell to do so.

Last night students and politicians warned against the universities’ proposal which they feared would be perceived as anti-English.

Rami Okashi, the Scottish president of the National Union of Students which opposes top-up fees in any part of the UK, warned that the latest plan could stoke up English resentment against the Scots.

He said: "There is some resentment in England that Scottish people get it so good and that would be emphasised if English people coming to Scotland were charged for being English."

Fiona Hyslop, the shadow enterprise minister, also criticised the idea, saying: "I don’t think their proposed solution is the answer: it’s short term and the wrong reaction."

She said top-up fees in England would not encourage many more English students to head north over the longer term, arguing that a funding gap would lead many to regard English institutions as more attractive places to study.

She also said Scottish universities had a responsibility to treat Scottish students fairly amid concerns that they currently value English qualifications higher than Scottish equivalents.

Murdo Fraser, the Tory lifelong learning spokesman, added: "It’s another example of the Hadrian’s Wall that might be erected. It seems a very perverse situation to penalise English students wishing to come to Scotland on account of an English law forced through by Scottish Labour.

"This sort of reaction shows the mess that further education is getting into all because Tony Blair with Scottish MPs as lobby fodder are hellbent on driving through top up fees for England."

A spokesman for the Executive indicated that it would resist the Universities Scotland idea, saying it has no plans to introduce top-up fees at Scottish universities. The Executive’s approval is required before Universities Scotland can go ahead with the fees.

But the Executive spokesman added that its ongoing higher education review was looking at the potential implications for Scotland of top-up fees in England.

He said: "One group in this review is examining cross-Border flow of students. It would be premature to comment further before the report and evidence from the review goes to ministers in February."

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