The Scottish Executive has dismissed speculation that applications to Scottish institutions will surge for the coming year because of a loophole whereby entrants will pay neither tuition fees nor a graduate contribution.
A spokesman for the executive confirmed that Scottish students beginning courses this autumn, and those already studying, will no longer pay tuition fees. Nor will they have to make a Pounds 2,000 graduate endowment payment once their salary tops Pounds 10,000, since the legislation establishing the endowment fund will take effect only in 2001.
But he said that there was no incentive for applicants to seek entry this autumn because they would not have access to extra support ý such as Pounds 2,000 annual access payments to students from low-income groups ý that will also come into effect in 2001.
The National Union of Students Scotland has condemned the loophole as compounding confusion over student funding. A spokesman predicted that far from there being a rush of applicants, many potential students, particularly mature entrants, would wait until the changes had "bedded in properly". "It may be good news for some, but not for others," the spokesman said.
The Scottish Executive spokesman rebuffed accusations that the loophole for the autumn entrants was an unintentional blunder. "The executive acted to address the issue of tuition fees as quickly as possible. It was decided as a matter of conscious policy to end tuition fees from the start of [the coming] academic year," he said.
It had not been feasible to implement the new student support package and graduate endowment scheme until 2001.