Hint of more cash to widen Scots' access

January 14, 2000

Scottish finance minister Jack McConnell this week hinted at extra funds for higher education in the wake of the Cubie report but stressed that these would have to come from existing budgets.

The coalition agreement had already delivered an extra Pounds 80 million for education, he said, and "there could be more to come".

There was real commitment on the part of Labour and the Liberal Democrats to widen access to higher education.

"I am certain we will come up with a package that widens access to higher education and which ensures that our coalition remains strong," said Mr McConnell.

A team of six senior Labour and Liberal Democrat ministers is finalising a response to Cubie and will shortly present it to the Scottish cabinet and the Scottish Parliament.

The Committee of Scottish Higher Education Principals hopes the latest figures on higher education entrants will put pressure on the Scottish Parliament to implement the Cubie package quickly.

David Caldwell, Coshep's director, said the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service figures showed slightly fewer Scots going into higher education this year while numbers rose by more than 5,000 in the rest of the country.

He said: "Some potential students appear to be taking a 'wait and see' attitude to the student finance debate and may be choosing to delay until they see the outcome."

"The message that these figures do send is that there is a need to end the uncertainty over student finance with all possible speed."

Mr Caldwell also urged the Westminster and Holyrood parliaments to end the "Scottish anomaly" whereby students from elsewhere in the country who study in Scotland have to pay fees for one more year than Scottish students. The UCAS figures suggested the anomaly was beginning to bite.

"In a year where the number of English people going into higher education rose by 2 per cent, the number coming to Scotland fell by 1.4 per cent," he said.

"It is urgent that the UK government and Scottish executive find a way to eliminate this discrimination as soon as possible."

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