Students end stage sit-in over fees

Cordelia O'Neill
Friday 23 September 2011 16:03 BST

A group of students protesting against Scotland's leading arts academy's decision to charge fees of £9,000 to students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland ended their sit-in this afternoon.

A spokeswoman for the group said it was "neither practical nor effective" to stay in the foyer of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland overnight.

Around 30 students started occupying the building at around 11.30 this morning.

They said the protest was part of a rolling programme of "wildcat" occupations over Scottish universities' plans to charge fees to students from the rest of the UK (RUK).

The RCS, which recently changed its name from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, is to charge students from elsewhere in the UK £36,000 for four-year degree courses and £27,000 for three-year courses from 2012/13.

The Glasgow-based institution has said the charge reflects the exceptionally high cost of programme delivery in conservatoires, which substantially exceeds the £9,000 fee.

The sit-in at the conservatoire ended shortly after 3pm.

A spokeswoman for the protesters said: "By facilitating fee increases for RUK students the RCS is setting a dangerous precedent in Scotland.

"Despite promises from the SNP Government that Scottish students will not pay fees, we believe that the huge disparity in fees between Scottish and RUK students will become intolerable and will inevitably result in fees for all students.

"Whatever tokenistic measures are introduced, a financial market in education will always result in discrimination against those unable to afford fees, whatever the level.

"Education is a right, and must be free, as it was for generations.

"The Conservatoire's Student Union has abandoned its responsibilities by backing the decision by management."

Robert Gordon University (RGU) in Aberdeen and the Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) also made announcements on fees for RUK students today.

RGU adopted a "tiered approach", with three bands of undergraduate fees.

Business, management and social science courses will cost £5,000 a year, fees for art and design, architecture and built environment, computing, engineering, health and science courses will be set at £6,750 a year, while the master of pharmacy course will be the most expensive at £8,500 a year.

The Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) said fees for RUK students would be £27,000 for a four-year degree, with fees set at £6,750 a year.

The announcements came after St Andrews and Edinburgh universities set fees at the maximum level of £9,000 per year for students from the rest of the UK, meaning that a four-year honours degree at the universities will cost £36,000.

Aberdeen and Heriot-Watt universities also announced £9,000 yearly fees, although both have capped the cost of a degree at £27,000.

Glasgow School of Art also capped fees at £27,000 for a four-year course.

Currently, no full-time undergraduates domiciled in Scotland pay tuition fees at Scottish universities.

The conservatoire said the fee its board of governors has agreed is exactly the same as that charged by comparable conservatoires in England which offer four-year undergraduate degree courses in music and three-year undergraduate degree courses in drama and dance.

The conservatoire, whose alumni include James McAvoy, Robert Carlyle, Billy Boyd and Tom Conti, already operates an extensive scholarship programme.

It said that from 2012/13 it will introduce additional scholarships, which will be means-tested, for new undergraduate students from the rest of the UK to partly offset the introduction of increased tuition fees for that group of students.

Scholarships of £3,000 a year will be available for students from a household whose income is less than £25,000 per annum.

The RCS was not immediately available for comment.


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