Four out of five British people think it unfair that while universities in Scotland do not charge tuition fees to Scottish pupils or other EU nationals, students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland studying at Scottish universities do have to pay tuition fees, our poll has found.
A majority of those living in Scotland also agree that this system is unfair (although unsurprisingly feeling is less strong here than among those from the rest of Britain).
Nearly three quarters of Brits would suppose a change in the law to force Scotland to charge students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland in the same way as other European Union countries.
- 80% of British people think it’s unfair that Scottish universities currently do not charge tuition fees for Scottish pupils or people from the European Union outside England, Wales and Northern Ireland
- Just 13% of people think this is fair
- Opinion is more equally split among Scottish people, with 53% of people saying the policy is unfair
- And 40% of Scots thinking that students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland having to pay for tuition in Scottish universities is fair
- 74% of people would support a change in the law to force Scotland to treat students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland in the same way as students from other European countries
- And 12% of people would oppose it
- Again the divide is more even among residents of Scotland, with 56% saying that they would support a change and 31% who would oppose it
The poll comes as it was announced at the end of last month that Scottish universities will be able to charge annual fees of up to £9000 for students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland from next year. As English universities lifted their cap on fees earlier this year, so too did their Scottish counterparts ̶ but only English, Welsh and Northern Irish students will be required to pay tuition fees to Scottish universities.
Mike Russell, the Scottish education secretary, has said that Scottish university places must be protected for Scottish students, amid fears of ‘fee refugees’ heading north of the border.
‘Scotland has and always will welcome students from all over the world to our universities. However, the decisions being taken in England could threaten the quality and competitiveness of our universities. We cannot allow Scotland to no longer be the best option and instead be known as the cheap option - we also must protect places for Scottish students.’
He added that for English, Welsh or Northern Irish students to study in Scotland ‘will not cost more than it does in their home nation.’