Cubie warns Scots of risk of top-ups brain drain

September 12, 2003

Scotland risks losing research teams and overseas students if English universities end up with proportionally better funding after the white paper proposals, Andrew Cubie has warned.

Dr Cubie, whose inquiry led to the abolition of tuition fees north of the border, this week gave evidence to the Scottish Parliament's enterprise and culture committee, which is investigating the potential impact of English top-up fees on Scotland.

He said he doubted whether there would be an influx of English students trying to avoid top-up fees, although he believed Scottish students might look "rather more carefully" at moving south.

He said he was worried about the impact of a brain drain if a substantial funding gap appeared between the two countries. This raised the possibility of more attractive funding packages luring Scottish researchers south.

"We have some tremendously talented people but all of these are individuals who are clearly looking to career opportunities," he said. "For people in the academic community, it's a mobile international field."

Dr Cubie said that the loss of high-calibre staff to England would make Scotland less attractive to overseas students.

He said that while the government had to help fill the funding gap, there must be contributions from other sources, including business, increased university commercialisation, and graduates (graduate endowment payments and voluntary alumni contributions).

He attacked the Scottish Executive's decision to set a £10,000 earnings threshold for graduate-endowment contributions, now to be raised to £15,000 in line with loan repayment levels. This was heading in the right direction, but not far enough, given that the Cubie committee four years ago proposed a £25,000 threshold.

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