Labour losses may see fees scrapped

March 25, 2005

Top-up fees in England may be axed if Labour's majority is slashed in the forthcoming general election, according to the Universities Scotland organisation.

The umbrella body for Scottish principals believes that the pressure to scrap top-up fees could grow if the party's majority is cut significantly.

Scotland abolished upfront tuition fees at the insistence of the Liberal Democrats, who extracted the compromise as part of the power-sharing deal struck with the Scottish Labour Party.

A spokesman for Universities Scotland said: "Small majority politics could be back in England in the near future, and it is entirely possible that the outcome would be the end of top-up fees."

Peter Lynch, senior lecturer in politics at Stirling University, said Scotland would see "a strange kind of campaign" in the wake of devolution.

Parties should be dealing only with matters relating to Westminster, but he predicted that they would conflate devolved issues. Dr Lynch said that tensions were likely to emerge because Labour and the Lib Dems fight one another in Westminster on issues such as top-up fees but work in coalition in Scotland.

The Association of University Teachers Scotland is stressing common issues across the UK, from investment in teaching and research to an extension of academic freedom.

Tony Axon, research officer for the AUTS, said: "More public funding in England for higher education and the research councils will have a direct impact on funding for Scottish higher education."

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