The Conservative Universities Minister and Under-Secretary of State for Scotland have both suggested a tuition free-for-all for students from Londonderry, London and Llandudno will create a £150m black-hole for third level colleges north of Hadrian’s Wall in a post-independence Scotland.
The Universities Minister David Willetts told the Scottish Affairs Committee at Westminster that Irish, Welsh and English students from the remaining United Kingdom would be as entitled to free tuition as their EU counterparts in the event of a ‘Yes’ vote in the Autumn.
He said: “We have the estimates here. We reckon that there are about 20,000 students from the rest of the UK studying in Scotland per year, bringing about £150 million into Scottish higher education, so you would lose £150 million of revenues before you started.”
Labour MP Lindsay Roy remarked: “There would be a black hole.”
Mr Willetts replied: “Correct. It would be a black hole. Currently, you would lose about £150 million.
The Chair of the Committee, Ian Davidson said that the situation would only arise of you stopped treating English, Welsh and Northern Ireland students differently.
“If you keep the existing system, you do not lose that money at all,” he stated.
Mr Willetts replied: “Correct. At the moment, those fees are paid. That ability to charge is permitted within EU law, because within the EU a single member state can run different rules for one part of the single member state as against the other.
“But EU law is clear: once they are different member states, you cannot do that, so Scotland would lose the ability to charge fees to students from the rest of the UK and that would cost it £150 million.”
The Under-Secretary for Scotland, David Mundell, noted a recent spike in Irish students from the Republic attending Scottish institutions.
“There has been a significant increase in the number of students from the Republic of Ireland within Scotland since the Scottish Government have had the policy of no tuition fees,” he said.
“It is anticipated that there would be an increasing number of students applying from England, Wales and Northern Ireland should that policy apply,” he added.