English fee refugees pose threat to Scots

May 7, 2004

More English students will take places at Scottish universities this year, raising fears that top-up fees in England will restrict access for local students north of the border.

The latest student application figures are heightening fears that local students could be squeezed out of Scottish universities by an influx of "fee refugees" from south of the border.

Rami Okasha, president of the National Union of Students Scotland, said the figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service vindicated the union's warnings about the impact of English top-up fees. The union urged Scottish MPs to vote against the higher education bill because of the risk of reducing opportunities for their constituents.

The figures show the number of English applicants to Scottish universities rising by more than 11 per cent, while the number of Scots hoping to head south has dropped by almost 7 per cent.

"It is a great concern because if people are applying from Scotland after five years of secondary school with Highers and competing with applicants with six years of secondary school and A levels, the people with A levels are at an academic advantage," Mr Okasha said.

But Universities Scotland takes a more relaxed view of 24,744 English applicants compared with 22,231 last year, seeing it complementing the Scottish Executive's Fresh Talent scheme.

"In the end, we should try to be positive. After all, English students are fresh talent, too," a spokesperson said.

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