Scots stand firm against charging for tuition

August 4, 2006

Scottish Liberal Democrats could soon find themselves at odds with their English colleagues over tuition fees.

As party leaders in Westminster consider dropping their anti-tuition fees policy, counterparts in the ruling Scottish Executive seem determined to stick with their no-fees policy.

Scotland's current system, where students pay nothing up front but make a contribution to a student support fund after graduation, was wrested by Scottish Lib Dems from the Scottish Labour Party, desperate for its support in the executive following devolution.

As a result, the Scottish Executive pays the fees for full-time undergraduates. Students' only liability is an endowment contribution of just over Pounds 2,000, payable only if they graduate and once they start earning more than £15,000.

The Scottish Parliament has vetoed any prospect of universities charging top-up fees, and as the Scottish elections loom next year, the Scottish Liberal Democrats do not anticipate any change of policy.

"It is our intention to continue to build on the strong record of Liberal Democrats in government in Scotland that led to free tuition, massive increases in funding for universities and colleges, wider participation and tackling of student debt, with grants for those in need. These policies are working for Scotland," a spokesperson said.

Referring to moves to abandon opposition to fees in England, the spokesman said that CentreForum, which supports a u-turn, was an independent think-tank with no formal policymaking role within the party.

Meanwhile, Scottish nationalists are promising a return to free higher education.

Nicola Sturgeon, Depute Leader of the Scottish National Party, said that her party would implement a £100 million package to abolish fees and introduce grants to replace loans. The party said it would include detailed costings in its election budget plans.

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