Nicola Sturgeon should 'build' on relationship with London
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Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will address the nation this afternoon in her weekly COVID-19 update. She will provide the latest details on Scotland’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Scotland’s handling of the pandemic has diverted from the UK Government’s, as has other devolved powers.
It is not the only thing that Holyrood has decided to take a different path on, having decided to scrap university tuition fees in 2000.
Tony Blair had decided to reintroduce the fees in 1998, a year after entering Government, something that students across the UK and backbench MPs protested, but to no avail.
Scotland, recently having taken over responsibility for education after the first elections in 1999 post-devolution, decided that it would maintain the status quo and not make students pay to study.
This was a key policy of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, who entered a coalition with the Scottish Labour Party at the time.
Ms Sturgeon has since attempted to claim that her Scottish National Party (SNP) ended fees in 2008 — but this was just the scrapping of the graduate endowment.
However, tuition fees were not scrapped for all UK-based students.
Only Scottish nationals were eligible to study for free, meaning that anyone from Wales, England or Northern Ireland had to pay their fees in full.
While many may believe this was fair — the Scottish Government was footing the bill — EU nationals were also privy to Scotland’s free tuition.
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Because of EU law, Holyrood was forced to treat EU students in the same way it treated students from Scotland.
It meant that while budding students from the continent could head to the UK and study for free, those in Wales, England and Northern Ireland still had to foot the bill, which today costs £9,250.
This additional money from those Welsh, English and Northern Irish students, and those coming from overseas, helped to maintain free education for those from Scotland and the EU, in addition to funding from Holyrood.
However, because of Brexit, this unfair process has now ended.
In 2020, the Scottish Government announced with a “heavy heart” that it was ending free tuition for EU students.
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Richard Lochhead, an SNP MSP confirmed the move in a statement, and said: “It is with a heavy heart that we have taken the difficult decision to end free education for new EU students from the academic year 2021/22 onwards as a consequence of Brexit.
“EU students who have already started their studies, or who start this autumn, will not be affected and will still be tuition free for the entirety of their course.
“As a consequence of the decision we have taken on EU students, we must also decide what happens to the funding that currently supports those places.
“I can confirm that we will not remove the funding we currently devote to paying EU student fees from the overall funding for the sector.
“On current trends and following further analysis, we estimate this could be up to £19million for 2021/22.”
Late last year it was reported that the number of EU students accepted on to a university course in Scotland had more than halved.
UCAS statistics at the time showed that the percentage of students who live in Europe and were accepted to study at Scottish universities had dropped by 56 percent when compared to 2020.
All four UK nations had faced similar significant drops when compared to the year before.
At the same time the number of non-EU students from abroad accepted to universities in all four nations showed a rise.
Those from overseas pay considerably higher fees compared to those in the UK, often up to four times as much.
While the number of EU students applying to study in Wales, England and Scotland had dropped in 2019, 2021 saw the biggest fall.
The number of those from the EU wanting to study in Northern Ireland slightly increased in 2020 but fell in the following year.
The National Union of Students (NUS) Scotland have said that the “astronomical fees” EU students now have to pay as a result of Brexit are to blame.
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