29 Oct 2012
Universities in a separate Scotland would lose £263 million a year in fees from students from the rest of the UK, a report has shown.
The forecast, by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe), is over £100 million more than the Scottish Government predicted earlier this month.
The gap would occur because English students, who currently pay fees of up to £9,000 to study in Scotland, would be considered EU students if Scotland became independent.
That would present a significant challenge for universities to make up the difference, particularly at a time when they are already struggling to balance the books.
Scottish Conservative education spokeswoman Liz Smith MSP said:
“At a time when the overall competence of the Scottish Government has been seriously undermined, yet more questions have arisen about the size of the funding gap and the full cost of higher education.
“This would have to be borne by the taxpayer if Scotland was to become an independent country.
“SPICe has estimated that the Scottish Government has already underestimated the funding gap by more than £100 million and if even more EU students are applying too, then that increases the financial burden for the taxpayer further.
“As well as this we know that, in an independent Scotland, Scottish Universities would no longer be in a legal position to charge fees to Rest of the UK students
“On current figures, this is £263 million a year.
“The Scottish Government needs to tell us exactly what the arithmetic is and how it will find the extra funds.
“Our universities and students deserve nothing less than the honest truth.”
For more information, see the committee papers, p21:
The Scottish Government estimated the gap would only be £155 million a year following a Parliamentary Question by Scottish Conservative MSP Liz Smith on Tuesday 16th October 2012:
Liz Smith (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party): To ask the Scottish Government how much additional funding would be required to support students from the rest of the UK studying in Scotland if the country became an independent member of the EU and what discussions it has had regarding this.
Michael Russell: There are approximately 20,000 students from the rest of the UK studying for a first degree at Scottish universities. If all of these students were to qualify for regulated places as EU students then the cost of providing these places would be approximately £150 million.
To date, there have been no substantive discussions on this matter.
For more information on EU student levels, visit: