Conservatives promise £60m college fund
Ending free university tuition could pay for helping students into college, argues Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson
The Scottish Conservatives have pledged to invest £60m in extra college places as part of the party’s platform for the 2016 Scottish Parliament election.
As many as 140,000 places lost from Scottish colleges since 2007 would be replaced under the scheme, leader Ruth Davidson said, paid for by graduate contributions after alumni earn over a certain amount.
Davidson said the number of students at colleges was its lowest on record.
“The SNP has built monuments to itself on so-called free education, while quietly demolishing the ladder of opportunity that our colleges provide to thousands of youngsters.
“We reject the discrimination which favours academic over vocational courses. A Scottish Conservative government would therefore reverse the cuts made by the SNP to Scotland's college budget,” she said.
Davidson said the proposal wouldn’t mean £9,000 per year university fees paid in England, but “a fair contribution made by Scottish graduates helping to pay for a stronger college sector”.
However the SNP said the announcement confirmed the Conservatives planned the end of free university tuition.
George Adam MSP said: “The Tories claim that their colleges policy will be funded ‘in its entirety’ by a graduate contribution – but without any detail about how much students would be expected to pay, or exactly when they would have to start paying it, their colleges policy has absolutely no credibility.”
The president of the National Union of Students in Scotland Vonnie Sandlan said the Conservatives had returned to an “old, tired” debate.
“It’s right that parties look to improve college funding and student support, but that can’t be done by pitting universities against colleges, or further education students against higher education students. Instead, we need to ensure both are properly, and publically, funded,” she said.
The Conservatives are the only party currently advocating an end to free university tuition.
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