Scottish studentsnet best fee deal

August 26, 2005

As top-up fees begin to bite, the cost of study in different parts of the UK is likely to vary considerably, writes Olga Wojtas.

From 2006, virtually all English universities are set to charge student fees of £3,000 annually. Students can take out a loan to cover the costs, repayable once they start earning more than £15,000.

Northern Ireland students will also face top-up fees of up to £3,000, and will be able to defer payment.

The Scottish Parliament has vetoed any prospect of Scottish higher education institutions charging top-up fees. But from 2006, the Scottish Executive is proposing raising general tuition fees from £1,200 a year to Pounds 1,700.

And it also intends to set a higher rate for medicine of £2,700 to avoid Scottish applicants being squeezed out by "fee refugees" from the rest of the country. These proposals have still to go before the Scottish Parliament.

Full-time undergraduates who stay in Scotland will have their fees paid to higher education institutions on their behalf. Their only liability is a graduate endowment contribution of just over £2,000, payable only if they graduate and once they start earning more than £15,000.

But even though students from elsewhere in the UK will find that Scotland is about to get more expensive, particularly those in medicine, it will still be cheaper than studying in England.

Nichol Stephen, Scotland's Lifelong Learning Minister, said he aimed to ensure that students from the rest of the UK considered Scotland "as the right option, not the cheap option".

Demand for medical school places was already acute, he said, with ten applications for every place, compared to a UK average of three to one.

Scots were twice as likely as other UK graduates from Scottish medical schools to be working for the National Health Service in Scotland ten years after leaving university.

Wales is also taking steps to ease the financial burden on its own nationals. In 2006, fees will be fixed at £1,200, and top-up fees of up to Pounds 3,000 will not be introduced until 2007-08.

It is not yet clear what levels institutions will charge, but Welsh students living in Wales will qualify for a fee grant of up to £1,800, depending on what the university charges. This grant will be paid directly to the university.

Welsh students who go to study in England will not be eligible for the grant, nor will students from the rest of the UK coming to Wales.

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