Wrong proportion

July 10, 1998

Smokescreens generated to befuddle the opposition over the Scottish tuition fees anomaly have claimed their first victim - Tony Blair. In fact, the PM was seriously disorientated when he told MPs that the number of English students applying to Scottish institutions was up. The day before Scottish Office secretary Brian Wilson confirmed that overall UK applications to Scottish universities were down. The truth lies behind government sophistry.

Mr Blair said as much when he corrected himself in the Commons last Wednesday. He said that the number of English applicants to Scottish universities had risen but as a "proportion of" total entrants the number had ... er ... fallen.

Such convoluted reasoning has done little to persuade opposition politicians and the Scottish higher education sector that English, Welsh and Northern Irish students will not be deterred by higher tuition fees north of the border.

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