Student finance: Tuition fees in Scotland - the haggling starts

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Tuition fees in Scotland face an uncertain future after they became a political hot potato during the Scottish Parliament's election campaign. Scottish students currently have to pay up to pounds 1,025 a year towards the fees for their courses, but the NUS in Scotland is convinced fees will soon be scrapped.

The issue rests on the findings of a 14-strong independent committee of inquiry set up to review student finance in Scotland. Labour, the only party committed to imposing fees, agreed to set up the group as part of the coalition deal struck with the Liberal Democrats - which, like the two other opposition parties, - has pledged to scrap them. The committee, made up of a range of bodies from across the education and Government spectrum, is expected to complete its findings by the end of the year before making its recommendations.

In an effort to prevent the coalition Government collapsing, Labour says it's likely to follow any recommendations made by the committee, even if it means scrapping fees.

But there is a good chance tuition fees may stay because Labour is banking on the committee recommending that the fees would be a way of funding its commitment to invest pounds 444m in the education system to provide measures including an extra 750,000 places in colleges and universities.

Henry McLeish, the enterprise and lifelong learning minister, said: "If there is a resounding view that they should be abolished, no sensible government is going to try to sideline the issue."

Richard Baker, president of NUS (Scotland), said: "We are very hopeful that fees will be scrapped. Two-thirds of MSPs were elected on a mandate to scrap tuition fees, so the mathematics says the fees must go.

"There has been a 5.2 per cent drop in applications to Scottish universities this year, and we think that only backs up our case."

The amount students currently have to pay towards their tuition fees is assessed by the Student Awards Agency for Scotland. The family income bands are the same as in England. If the fees are scrapped, it will mean that Scottish students will not have to pay them, even if they go to a university in England.

Students from the rest of the UK who study in Scotland will not be exempt, however, as their fees contribution is calculated by their local education authority.

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