More universities set fee levels

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The Independent Online

More Scottish universities have set fees below the maximum level of £9,000 per year for students from elsewhere in the UK.

Tuition fees for students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland attending the University of Stirling will be £6,750 per year from 2012.

This brings the cost of studying a four-year degree course to £27,000.

However, the institution said some students could qualify for direct entry into their second year and complete their studies in three years.

It will also introduce a new range of bursaries and scholarships for both Scottish students and those from the rest of the UK (RUK).

Scottish Education Secretary Michael Russell said in June that universities would be able to increase fees up to £9,000, prompted by the UK Government's decision to raise the cap on fees south of the border.

The SNP Scottish Government was elected on a pledge that it would not introduce fees or graduate contributions for students who live in Scotland.

Legislation must be passed at the Scottish Parliament before any university decisions on fees can be rubber-stamped.

Professor Gerry McCormac, the University of Stirling's principal and vice-chancellor, said: "As a result of the new funding arrangements, Scottish universities have no choice but to charge fees for students from the rest of the UK.

"At Stirling, our bursaries and scholarships will assist eligible students to attend university and encourage wider participation in higher education. Those students who are suitably qualified can choose to complete their studies within three years.

He added: "It is worth emphasising that these costs are not incurred up front. Like other Scottish universities, Stirling remains free at the point of entry - with students repaying the fees when they enter employment and have an income exceeding £21,000 a year."

Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh also announced it would set fees of £6,750 per year for RUK students.

Again, those who qualify to enter directly into the second year of the degree programme will be able to do so.

The university said it was committed to offering financial and bursary packages to attract and support well-qualified students from low income backgrounds.

Professor Petra Wend, principal and vice-chancellor, said 19% of the institution's students came from England, Wales and Northern Ireland and made a "significant contribution" to the university.

She said: "When setting indicative RUK fees and bursaries, we have balanced the need to cover the costs of tuition with a commitment to continue to be attractive to RUK students, whatever their financial circumstances."

Michael Breckenridge, president of Queen Margaret University's Students' Union, said: "We are opposed overall to the introduction of tuition fees in Scotland for RUK students.

"However we recognise that from a pragmatic perspective, the university has had to address this.

"The university has committed to cash bursaries rather than fees discounts. This is good news as the students' union view is that students need as much ready cash as possible to fund their studies."

The University of Aberdeen was the first higher education institution in Scotland to announce increased fees for RUK students.

From next year, annual fees will be set at £9,000 but the fourth year will be free, meaning the total cost will be capped at £27,000.

On Wednesday, the University of Glasgow set its annual fee at £6,750, with the exception of those studying medicine, dentistry and veterinary medicine who will be charged £9,000.

Meanwhile, St Andrews and Edinburgh universities set fees at the maximum level of £9,000 a year, with a four-year honours degree costing £36,000.

The University of Dundee and the University of Strathclyde also announced fees of £9,000 a year, but both capped them for a four-year course at £27,000.

The University of Abertay Dundee said it will charge RUK students £7,000 a year, capped at £21,000 for an honours degree course, while Edinburgh Napier University set fees of £6,500.

Robin Parker, president of the National Union of Students Scotland, said today's announcements "failed" students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

He said: "These decisions, combined with the others we've seen recently, leaves Edinburgh and St Andrews' £36,000 degrees looking all the more ridiculous, and leaves those institutions entirely out on a limb.

"Clearly setting fees so high was a huge mistake, and these institutions must now rethink their decision or risk a big drop in their student numbers.

"Degrees in Scotland are the most expensive in the UK for students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Principals were trusted to show restraint and they've clearly failed to do so."

He added: "Why would you come to study in Scotland when you can go closer to home, for cheaper, and avoid an extra year of living costs?

"The Scottish Government should now step in to reduce these fee levels and to set minimum standards on bursaries to protect access to university for the poorest students, whether at Stirling or other Scottish universities."