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By Andrew Barr
 
The latest figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) have shown that Scotland is the only nation in the UK that has seen a rise in university and college admissions.
 
Acceptances to Scottish higher education institutions have increased by 0.7 per cent in contrast to acceptances in England which have fallen by almost 8 per cent within just one year, the steepest decline in the UK.

Commenting, SNP MSP Marco Biagi – a Member of the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Culture Committee - said:

“These latest figures show the stark contrast between the huge damage being done by tuition fees south of the border and Scotland’s commitment to free education.

“More and more people are being put off studying at institutions in the rest of the UK and the reason is quite clearly the sky-high tuition fees that students face.”

Interestingly, the decline in English acceptances is notably smaller than the decline in English applications.  UK-wide there is a 10 per cent drop in English university applicants, considerably higher than the combined average UK figure of 7.7 per cent.  According to UCAS, 15,000 English 18-year-olds who might have been expected to apply for university this year chose not to.

The Scottish National Party has made free education in Scotland a main priority during election campaigns, ensuring that education is “based on the ability to learn, not the ability to pay.”

Mr Biagi added he was “proud” to be part of a party which has such a firm stance on free education.

“Unlike the other parties who break their promises to students once in power, the SNP is the only major party in Scotland never to have voted for tuition fees - and these figures explain why this is so important.

“A skilled, well-educated workforce is essential to economic success and the Tory-led coalition is only storing up huge problems for the UK in future years with its actions.

“Thank goodness that Scotland’s Higher Education is already effectively independent – otherwise Scotland would currently be facing the same devastating decline in applications that the Tories are causing south of the Border.”

Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont earlier this year made a speech to the Scottish Fabian Society claiming that the Scottish Government’s policy on free tuition was damaging education and was holding back some of Scotland’s most talented youngsters.

Ms Lamont had previously endorsed the principle of free education. The U-turn by the Scottish Labour leader was criticised as a "Nick Clegg moment", a reference to the Lib Dems voting for tuition fees in England despite pledging to oppose such a move before the General Election.

The issue of education was debated on Wednesday night when BBC Three held a higher education special on its political panel program Free Speech.

The panel featured Scotland’s youngest SNP MSP Humza Yousaf, journalist and broadcaster Milo Yiannopoulos, Institute of Economic Affairs Communications Director Ruth Porter and Iranian-English comedienne Shappi Khorsandi.

Humza Yousaf described free education as a “fundamental principle” and said the UK Government had its priorities in the wrong order.

“You can’t say on the one hand you don’t have enough money, and on the other hand manage to find 100 billion to renew nuclear trident missiles,” he said.

Milo Yiannopoulos claimed that Scottish education was funded by the English, and was booed by the Edinburgh audience.

“We pay our own way and we pay it pretty damn well,” replied Yousaf.

Viewers at home contributed to the debate by rating panellists on Twitter.  Humza Yousaf connected most with the young audience UK-wide and won the debate whilst Milo Yiannopoulos, who said “I think it’s hilarious that Scotland thinks it can go independent”, came last.

Comments  

 
# Silverytay 2012-08-17 06:47
To me two of the cornerstones of a civilised society is free education and free healthcare . A country which prefers to spend billions on w.m.d rather than educate its youth has lost its moral compass .
As for milo yiannopoulos ! please please please can we have more off him during the independence debates .
This man single handedly could persuade scots to vote for independence .
He is so good that I am surprised that the b.b.c and unionists are not calling him an s.n.p plant .
 
 
# McGillicuddy Dreams 2012-08-17 07:00
The accusation that Scottish student applications are being cast aside for foreign PAYING students has not been addressed here. Frankly, it is mighty conspicuous in it's absence. A bit like a bit of spin doctoring. I am dissappointed in this lack of reporting , Newsnet Scotland , albeit only outrageously so for the first time.
 
 
# cuckooshoe 2012-08-17 08:25
how many scots students did not get the university of their choice?
 
 
# nemo 2012-08-17 11:43
I don't think that would happen. If you have any info to the contrary then I'm happy to stand corrected but at my own institution we are allowed to take up to a certain amount of SAAS funded students and no more and then overseas students would then be brought in on top of them. With the huge amounts of cash they bring with them, a course would simply appoint temporary teaching staff to deal with the overseas students if existing provision would not suffice. It would be daft to not take funded SAAS students in favour of overseas as you get the overseas students anyway - they do not count towards the quota.
One thing that does strike me about the English position is that as research is all that matters to many university principals(REF position, grant income, spin-off companies, increased fees in England will allow greater spend and fewer students will reduce teaching and admin load to allow more time for research. It looks like a win-win situation for them but students and teaching quality lose out. The extra cash will not be spent on teaching provision, I'm certain. Personally, I think universities as businesses is nonsense, bad for educating a population, bad for science and I applaud free tuition in Scotland. With the correct priorities about what is funded (e.g. no Trident) upholding principles like these is affordable.
 
 
# Wullie B 2012-08-17 08:03
Call Kay with an E slating it today at some point on her show
 
 
# robbo 2012-08-17 09:09
It's simple. Who benefits from education? The person being educated. So why should the taxpayer pay for that education, why doesn't the person seeking education pay for the education? That way the person can make a rational decision as to whether it is worth taking education. And if everyone makes rational decisions the country become more efficient as a whole.

I mean whatever happened to common sense?
 
 
# snowthistle 2012-08-17 12:00
robbo,
So, you believe that the only person who benefits from education is the person who gets that education? You don't believe that society as a whole benefits from having educated citizens?
 
 
# robbo 2012-08-17 13:19
Society does not benefit because society has had to pay for it, and because of this the student only sees the benefits of uni, not the costs, thus will many will make the wrong decision and create public waste.

Uni is far from the be all and end all, there are many perfectly legitimate jobs that don't require it and it is possible to make a lot of money with hard work and determination without a degree - i know several that have done so.
 
 
# snowthistle 2012-08-17 15:48
I'm sure it is but is money the only consideration?
 
 
# Jiggsbro 2012-08-17 16:17
Quoting robbo:
Society does not benefit because society has had to pay for it


That's interesting logic. Society can't benefit from something it pays for? Society can't invest in its own future prosperity? And students do not choose to go to university. They can only choose to apply to go to university. It's up to the universities to make the right decisions. Whether you regard educating someone as 'public waste' probably depends on whether you're a typical right-winger who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.
 
 
# bringiton 2012-08-17 16:34
What I regard as a waste is Scottish tax payers money being used to educate our young people only for them to have to leave Scotland to find employment south of the border and elsewhere.
Generations of Scottish graduates have had to tread the path south as a result of London economic policies designed to keep Scotland poor and dependent on their largesse.
Another example of Scotland subsidising the South of England.
 
 
# robbo 2012-08-17 19:27
Quote:
Whether you regard educating someone as 'public waste' probably depends on whether you're a typical right-winger who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.


I don't consider it a right wing policy. It is natural (nothing is free so if you want it you should pay for it) and something that is natural does not have a political affiliation. A right wing policy would be a deviation from the natural designed to favour the upper end of society, for example slavery or the caste system, or when governments cosy up to major corporations - none of these things i condone.

However, i noticed that you have skewed my words. Claiming that i think education is a public waste. I never said that, i said people taking education that they would not take if they had to bear the true costs was a public waste. And it is. Most jobs don't require a degree, so there is no point educating everyone to degree standard. The resources used to educate that person and the loss of productivity during that time could go towards benefiting society in other ways.

You see i don't want to punish poor people or anything like that, i just want rational decisions to lead to the best utilisation of the nation's available resources meaning everyone's quality of life improves.


Quoting Angry_Weegie:
You can use the same argument for education at any level. Why should the state pay for school education. After all, why do our children need to be able to read and write. Unless they can afford to pay for it, of course.


You are quite right - but then you can take any argument to the extreme. I personally believe that cut off age should be 18 when you turn an adult. I feel at this age you are mature enough for not only a job, but also to decide whether you should take on additional education if you think it will be worth the associated costs.
 
 
# Angry_Weegie 2012-08-17 17:11
Quoting robbo:
Society does not benefit because society has had to pay for it, and because of this the student only sees the benefits of uni, not the costs, thus will many will make the wrong decision and create public waste.

Uni is far from the be all and end all, there are many perfectly legitimate jobs that don't require it and it is possible to make a lot of money with hard work and determination without a degree - i know several that have done so.


You can use the same argument for education at any level. Why should the state pay for school education. After all, why do our children need to be able to read and write. Unless they can afford to pay for it, of course.
 
 
# flyingscotsman 2012-08-17 12:16
Many people that have been educated in our universities that would not have had the opportunity otherwise have started their own businesses, created employment etc. Many of those have increased confidence and knowledge or to get off the bottom of the ladder. Many end up having a wage or a higher wage therefore contributing more tax offsetting the cost of the education in the first place. And some are given money to study rather than to be on benefits while sitting at home all day vegitating.

Just like an employer invests money in its staff, the government invests in its people. It is the obvious choice.
 
 
# scottish_skier 2012-08-17 18:32
The right-wing argument is people with a degree earn more as a benefit of their degree so should pay for it. However, they already do; if you earn more you pay more taxes.

Engineers, scientists, doctors, teachers... They are the wealth creators, not the super rich. They create jobs through innovation, they keep the workforce healthy...

They may earn quite well over the course of their careers, but then they often have very high levels of responsibility. They also pay a lot of taxes and put most of the money they earn back into the system rather than accumulating it in offshore tax havens.

Education should be free. Only condition for higher education is that you are clever enough to get it free. The Scottish government must pay for it from their budget so there must be some cap on places. Those that get these places are those that got the best grades. Merit not money. If you are clever enough, work hard enough, then the government will support you.

This contrasts the ridiculous idea that Labour pushed about getting more and more people to go to university. All this did was devalue degrees, meaning a BSc was no longer good enough, instead an MSc was needed. It also contrasts the selfish right-wing idea that you need to be rich to get an education, with intelligence less important.

Good companies train their workforce and pay for that training because they know the benefits it brings. That's what Scotland Ltd is doing and I'm very proud of it. If the SNP dropped this policy they'd lose my vote in a second.
 

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