The Scottish Government has been told not to rule out the introduction of tuition fees for university students as part of the ongoing debate over how to fund higher education.
The Scottish Government has been told not to rule out the introduction of tuition fees for university students as part of the ongoing debate over how to fund higher education. It comes following Vince Cable’s recent call for a new graduate tax as a fairer, more sustainable model of funding.
In the latest salvo in the battle of ideas over how to fund higher education, Andrew Cubie, who played a central role in drawing up the plans that saw the scrapping of tuition fees north of the border, told the Herald:
“My view is that if you undertake a comprehensive review of any issue, it is not rigorous to eliminate any solution in whole or part before you commence, even if that solution may not at first sight seem attractive.”
Cubie’s comments are just the latest suggestions ahead of the publication of Lord Browne’s review of the subject which will provide food for thought for Holyrood; last week, the think tank Reform Scotland called for a new system of deferred fees, concluding:
“Higher education is something that has to be achieved academically, but it is not fair that those who go to university have their time there subsidised fully by tax payers, many of whom have not had that opportunity.”
The developments have increased pressure on the SNP Government to undertake a similar in depth review of how to fund Scotland’s universities, with Labour’s higher education spokeswoman Claire Baker describing calls for such a review as now being “unanswerable” and Conservative spokeswoman, Liz Smith, declaring:
“Down south there is at least a debate going about the future of higher education and how it is funded, whereas in Scotland the SNP Government is totally narrow-minded.”
“When we know what the recommendations are south of the border, we will publish a green paper that looks at the proper solution in Scotland, which may include a variety of new proposals.
“There are things that all universities are thinking about, the way they can do things differently, and then we will move to a sustainable Scottish long-term solution.”
However, on Friday it was reported that the Holyrood administration would be considering the prospect of introducing a new graduate tax in line with Vince Cable’s suggestions.
Responding, Liam Burns, president of NUS Scotland, said:
“Although we should look first to the state and businesses to fulfil their responsibilities to higher education, a progressive graduate contribution, which only kicks in when you see a genuine financial benefit, and explicitly increases the amount students have in their pocket while they study, is certainly something we should consider in Scotland.”
On Thursday, the Association of Investment Companies reported that whilst Scottish students were less worried about debt than those elsewhere in the UK, they were more worried about their job prospects once they graduate.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.