31 May 2012
Alex Salmond today sidestepped questions on how many Northern Irish students are exploiting a loophole allowing them to study in Scotland for free, by applying using a Republic of Ireland passport.
The Scottish Conservatives have now submitted a Freedom of Information request to obtain the figures Mr Salmond would not provide today at First Minister’s Questions.
Instead, he simply listed the overall number of students applying from Northern Ireland, not those who are doing so with an Irish passports to avoid paying fees.
Three weeks ago in the chamber Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson asked about the loophole, only to be told by the SNP there was no evidence of it being a problem.
Since then, it has emerged more than 20 per cent of Northern Irish applicants to Dundee University have cited an Irish passport, a move that could cost the taxpayer up to £14 million for that university alone.
Scottish Conservative Leader Ruth Davidson MSP said:
“Alex Salmond today sidestepped answering legitimate concerns from universities and students regarding admissions in Scotland.
“He refused to say how many students residing in Northern Ireland are applying with Irish passports in order to avoid paying fees, and how much this is costing the universities.
“In a recent letter to the Scottish Conservatives, Education Secretary Mike Russell said he was going to possibly offer guidance to universities next year, but would not bother this year.
“Our universities and students deserve clarity now.”