Future upheaval in Scotland’s higher education? 

No Tuition Fees

L’Ecosse bénéficie d’un régime spécial au Royaume-Uni en ce qui concerne les frais de scolarité : les étudiants peuvent y aller à l’université gratuitement contrairement aux autres pays du Royaume-Uni. Pourtant ce système pourrait être remis en cause par l’éventuelle indépendance de la nation écossaise…


The United Kingdom is one of the places where tuition fees are the highest in Europe. Moreover, in 2010, the conservative-led parliament abolished the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA), which used to financially help the poorest 45% of British 16-19 year-old students. This brought about many social disturbances. All over the Kingdom, tuition fees have almost tripled during the last decade while the accommodation expenses have more than doubled for students.

In Scotland however, tuition fees have been free since the Scottish Parliament passed a law on the subject, following the idea of the Cubie Report. Today they are still free there thanks to the UK’s subsidies. But how would Scotland deal with it if the country were to become independent?

Indeed, if Scotland leaves the UK, its education system would be badly jeopardized as the UK would obviously stop to finance it. The point is that the UK devotes 13% of its budget to Scotland even though it represents only 8% of the Kingdom’s GDP – so the Kingdom has proved quite generous towards Scots. An independent Scotland would have to find another way to finance its universities, the easier way being by introducing tuition fees, which would make the population angry. Besides, the Scottish National Party means to be more left-wing than the rest of the UK so it would theoretically never intend to lead policies that question Scotland’s generous welfare state!

But, if they decide to keep their free education system, students from the rest of the UK (which would then be a foreign country) would have to be offered the same treatment, as the EU law of non-discrimination requires. Scotland would then be flooded by students from everywhere (not only the UK but also from the rest of Europe) and it would turn out to be harder for Scottish students to find a place. The situation would not be sustainable. Indeed, it would create a £150m blackhole in Scotland’s higher education budget.

Certainly, Scotland could ask for a special arrangement with the European Union, in order to charge non-Scottish European students only. But all the previous attempts by other EU countries have always failed. For Scotland to obtain such a privilege would be astonishing, all the more so as the EU is not very comfortable with the idea of Scotland joining the Union after leaving the UK. According to Mr. Barroso, if Scotland intends to join the UE, it would have to make some concessions and certainly not ask for privileges right away.  








One thought on “Future upheaval in Scotland’s higher education? 

  1. Pingback: Public Policy Decision Puts English Students’ Future In Jeopardy | Frogs Save The Queen

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