We store cookies on your device to make sure we give you the best experience on this website. I'm fine with this - Turn cookies off
Switch to an accessible version of this website which is easier to read. (requires cookies)

Scottish tution fee plans fail fair access test

November 13, 2011 12:01 AM
Originally published by Scottish Liberal Democrats

Scottish universities charging English students £9,000 annual fees would fail the fair access test set by the UK Government, according to the Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader Willie Rennie MSP.

Willie Rennie MSPWillie Rennie MSPIn England and Wales, universities wishing to charge above £6000 in tuition fees have to submit a fair access agreement to the Office for Fair Access for approval. Access agreements must set out how they will improve access and widen participation in order to encourage students from less well-off backgrounds to attend university. There is no such requirement here in Scotland, with individual universities deciding the terms themselves.

Mr Rennie wants the Scottish Government to implement a fair access office in Scotland or invite the UK Office for Fair Access (OFFA) to extend its remit to Scotland. The body would address this fair access gap for students coming from England and Wales but also to increase access for Scottish students from poorer back grounds.

Commenting Mr Rennie said:

"With Scottish universities now able to set fees up to £9000 a year, and Edinburgh and St Andrews Universities now the most expensive places to study in the UK, there remains real questions over the SNP Government's commitment to fair access.

"OFFA in England and Wales make sure that access to university is based on the ability to learn by requiring that universities comply with strict fair access criteria. OFFA make sure there are plans in place to protect those who want to go university but feel they cannot afford it. In fact more than 50 English universities had their access agreements sent back to be rewritten by OFFA as being not ambitious enough and OFFA will be carrying out an annual MOT for fairness.

"Scottish Liberal Democrats played a key role in the abolition of student fees in Scotland and continue to oppose fees.

"I want to know why Scottish universities have been able to increase fees for students from the rest of the UK without even meeting the fair access requirements set by the UK Government.

"NUS Scotland have already raised concerns that access rates are lower in Scotland than the rest of the UK and I want the Education Secretary to consider having an Office of Fair Access in Scotland which all universities would fall under the jurisdiction of.

"Michael Russell needs to tell us what he is going to do in Scotland to make sure there are plans in place to widen access. We need hard facts on access, not just warm statements of intents."