Higher living costs loom north of the border for students from rest of UK

Four-year courses at universities in Scotland will incur additional expense. David Matthews reports

October 6, 2011

The average cost of studying for a degree in Scotland for those from the rest of the UK will be higher than in England, but the tuition fee per year will be lower.

The average bill for a four-year Scottish course will be £,561, £2,000 more than for a three-year English course - and students will also be faced with an extra year of living costs.

The figure, calculated by Times Higher Education, contradicts the prediction by Michael Russell, the Scottish education secretary, that studying in Scotland would be a "slightly cheaper option" for students from the rest of the UK.

However, per year, Scottish higher education will be cheaper than in England, averaging £6,890 compared with £8,509.

In August, Mr Russell said that £6,375 was a "likely average" fee for Scottish institutions - around £500 less than the final figure calculated this week.

"I really don't think there will be anything like the rush they've had in England and Wales (for high fees)," he said at the time.

On 3 September, Mr Russell said that factoring in bursaries and fee waivers would cut the average annual fee to £6,375. In England the average is £7,881.

Holyrood has allowed Scottish universities to raise their fees for non-Scots to prevent "fee refugees" taking advantage of cheaper Scottish degrees, and to raise money for institutions north of the border.

The most expensive options are the universities of St Andrews and Edinburgh, which will charge £36,000 over four years, while Glasgow Caledonian University and the University of Abertay Dundee are cheapest, at £21,000.

In order to attract students from the rest of the UK, most Scottish universities have stressed that applicants with A levels and other appropriate qualifications could have the option to enter directly into the second year of a Scottish degree, saving a year of costs.

Between 10 and 20 per cent of rest-of-UK students currently do this.

Applicants "needn't incur higher living costs" by taking four-year degrees because there was "enough flexibility" to enter into the second year or take a three-year course, a spokesman for Universities Scotland said.

However, seven out of 18 institutions offer the fourth year free, so entering them in the second year will save living costs, but not tuition fees.

The University of Dundee has gone even further and said that "all appropriate programmes" will eventually be offered over three years as well as four, and in some subjects the traditional Scottish four-year course could be phased out.

The National Union of Students Scotland said the actual average cost of a degree would be £30,628, because more than 40 per cent of rest-of-UK students attend the most expensive institutions, St Andrews and Edinburgh.

In a ranking of 11 UK regions by the cost of university accommodation, Scotland was the fifth most expensive in 2009-10, according to the NUS. Over the same regions, but excluding Northern Ireland and Wales, Scotland was the second most expensive for private rented housing, behind London.

david.matthews@tsleducation.com.

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