Scottish Conservatives back free tuition in major U-turn

All main Holyrood parties now support keeping status quo on fees

October 6, 2020
Scottish Parliament

The Scottish Conservatives have performed a major U-turn and thrown their backing behind the country’s free university tuition system.

The shift was announced by Douglas Ross, the party’s new leader, in a move that puts him at odds with his Conservative colleagues in the Westminster government.

Mr Ross told a Young Conservative fringe event at the Tory party conference that the coronavirus pandemic meant that now was not the time to “burden” young people any further.

“This group of young people have had their education disrupted like no other,” he said. “They’re losing out on life-defining experiences, and they’re going to be entering the job market at the most difficult time.

“We cannot burden them any further. So now is the time for the Scottish Conservatives to rethink our policy on introducing tuition fees and a graduate contribution.

“Our manifesto will support free tuition for university students, while calling for college places to be viewed as equally valuable.”

The Scottish Conservatives supported abolishing tuition fees at the start of the millennium, but their last Holyrood manifesto proposed a fee cap of £6,000. The party has also at times supported a means-tested graduate tax system.

Their shift means that all of Scotland’s main political parties support maintaining the status quo on tuition fees, which are capped at £9,250 in England.

Matt Crilly, the National Union of Students’ Scotland president, said the Tory announcement was “a victory for students and prospective students across Scotland”.

“Education is a right, not a privilege, and must be freely accessible to all regardless of your class or income. Now more than ever before, we can see the importance of our education system as people retrain and reskill,” Mr Crilly said.

Scotland’s Scottish National Party government has already announced that it will end free university tuition for European Union students starting courses in the country from September 2021 onwards, following Brexit.

chris.havergal@timeshighereducation.com

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Reader's comments (1)

As long as Scotland has the balls to charge Europeans less than the English post~Brexit they’ll be doing a good job

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