English students with poorer grades may be offered places at some of the country’s top universities – while better qualified Scots are turned away. A fall in English applications for the next academic year means that fee-paying students south of the border could gain places to boost Scottish university income, even if they have worse grades than Scots.
As government funded university places for Scots are filling up, Lord Forsyth, former Tory minister said the situation was “outrageous,” accusing universities in Scotland of discriminating against the English financially and Scots academically.
In Scotland, students who study in the country are given free higher education at Scots Universities, whereas students from other parts of Britain are charged up to £9,000 a year. Earlier this year it was claimed that Edinburgh university was treating students from south of the border as “cash cows” after it offered more places to English than Scots students for the first time.
The Scottish Government’s decision to let universities charge students from south of the border has led to a 7% reduction in applications, leading institutions to use clearing to help make up a shortfall.
Two of Scotland’s best-known universities using clearing to attract students from the rest of Britain, Aberdeen and Stirling, claim English applicants will still be required to meet advertised minimum entry requirements. However, with competition for government-funded places for Scottish domiciled students so intense, minimum entry requirements might not be enough for some Scottish students.
Edinburgh charges students from England £36,000 for a four-year degree -£9,000 a year, making it more expensive than England’s most elite institutions, which will charge an annual £9,000 for a typical three-year course. Today the National Union of Students warned universities against “putting their balance sheets ahead of ensuring we have fair access, based on a student’s potential”.
Aberdeen University, which charges English students up to £9,000 annually, will use clearing for the first time since 2009 for Rest of the UK students and international applicants, having filled its quota for Scots. It said students from the rest of Britain would require three B grades at A-level to be offered places.
Stirling University, which charges English students £6,750 a year, said it was unlikely Scottish or European Union students would be admitted through clearing. In most cases English students will require two B grades and one C grade at A-level. Lord Forsyth, who has introduced a bill to prevent British students from being charged different tuition fees depending on where in the country they study, described the situation as unacceptable.
He said: “It must present the danger that they are going to give places to students from England who are less qualified than those from Scotland. It’s a complete bugger’s muddle. The system is operating double discrimination — financial discrimination against students domiciled in England and academic discrimination against Scottish students.”
A spokeswoman for Aberdeen University said she was “not prepared to speculate” on whether English students would be admitted with poorer grades than Scottish students required.