Lawyer Andrew Cubie is calling on government ministers to seek an urgent ruling from Europe on the legal ramifications of differential student funding within the United Kingdom.
The widely praised Cubie recommendations proposed axing up-front tuition-fee contributions from Scottish students wherever they studied. But the Scottish Executive says it can only axe fees for Scottish students in Scotland, or be liable for the fees of European Union students studying elsewhere in the United Kingdom.
In an exclusive interview with The THES, Mr Cubie said he believed any form of differential on student fees or contributions within the UK must give rise to potential European difficulties. But his committee had not anticipated the suggestion that European students coming to any part of the UK could claim the same benefits enjoyed by Scottish students.
"If it is the case that everyone in the EU can choose to go to a country where the best package is available, when you consider EU expansion, there must be turbulence. My personal view ... is that a student within the EU should take the funding package which comes from the student's domicile," he said.
Mr Cubie said he regretted the Scottish Executive's proposal that graduates make endowment contributions once their earnings reached Pounds 10,000. His independent committee had deliberately pitched the threshold for contributions at Pounds 25,000, above average earnings, because it believed successful graduates should contribute to benefit others. He also regretted the executive's failure to beef up student support levels, which the committee proposed should rise to Pounds 4,100 for students living away from home.
Sidestepping his unsought role of champion of students across the UK, who are demanding parity with the Cubie recommendations, he said: "I think it is good to draw breath before suggesting you can simply transplant our recommendations wholesale to other parts of the UK."