SNP moots 'handcuffs' for medical graduates

January 28, 2005

The Scottish National Party has suggested "golden handcuffs" for graduates of Scottish medical schools as an alternative to controversial proposals for premium fees for non-Scottish UK students, writes Olga Wojtas.

The Scottish Executive wants the power to raise fees for non-Scots to prevent schools being swamped by "fee refugees", applicants seeking a Scottish medical degree to avoid paying top-up fees in England. It is particularly worried because most non-Scottish students return home after graduation, while the National Health Service in Scotland has recruitment problems.

But Fiona Hyslop, SNP spokesperson for education, has urged ministers to look at the possibility of insisting that graduates work in the Scottish NHS for a period. "It is important to ensure that those who are trained in Scotland and whose training is paid for by the taxpayer should have the opportunity to contribute to the NHS in Scotland," she said. "In principle, golden handcuffs at the latter stages of training are far better than a policy that introduces top-up fees at the start."

Jim Wallace, Lifelong Learning Minister, dismissed the proposal. He said that graduates who found they were more suited to careers outside medicine or who wanted to support people in developing countries would face "a £67,000 fine" (the money required to repay the cost of their course).

But Ms Hyslop said there was no intention to target such graduates. Labour MSP Mike Watson said the National Union of Students Scotland had come up with "highly credible alternatives" to the ministerial proposals. There could, for example, be a relaxation of entrance criteria, which demanded that Scottish applicants achieve all the necessary Higher passes in a single sitting.


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