Chiefs query Cubie maths

November 19, 1999

Scottish principals are lamenting the Cubie inquiry's headline-grabbing price tag of Pounds 12 million to axe higher education tuition fees north of the border.

In its response to Cubie's second consultation on student funding, the Committee of Scottish Higher Education Principals recalculates the figure to Pounds 32 million in the first year, rising to Pounds 46 million. Cubie's estimate that axeing fees would cost an initial Pounds 12 million, rising to an annual Pounds million, is based not only on axeing fee contributions, but correspondingly cutting the amount of loan students can have.

But Coshep says some students do not use their full loan entitlement. Abolishing fees without full compensation would mean Scottish higher education losing at least Pounds 42 million a year. Coshep wants to see a fee contribution made on behalf of students and recovered once they are in work.

Abolishing the contribution "would remove a clearly identifiable independent funding stream and throw our higher education system further on the mercies of state funding," it says.

But the National Union of Students Scotland says Cubie's figures mean the debate is already won in terms of cost. The Scottish National Party, Liberal Democrats and Conservatives all underline their commitment to axeing fees, with the SNP claiming a "powerful political and democratic mandate" for the move.

While the Association of University Teachers Scotland says it supports the principle of free higher education, it warns this should not be to the detriment of funding.

But there is a consensus over restoring grants to the poorest students. Coshep, NUS Scotland and AUT Scotland all support a system of means-tested awards.

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