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Concerns over plans to cap the number of English students at Scottish universities

University of Edinburgh - Image credit: Flickr

Concerns over plans to cap the number of English students at Scottish universities

UK Government plans to limit the number of English students studying at Scottish universities could “further damage” the higher education sector, the Scottish Government has said.

The Department for Education in England has announced a limit in the number of students any university can recruit this summer to an increase of no more than 6.5 per cent.

The idea is prevent some universities giving out large numbers of unconditional offers to increase their number of students while leaving fewer for other institutions at a time when the universities are struggling with funding and a drop in students from abroad.

However, the cap will also apply to Scottish universities, where around ten per cent of the students come from England, as well as in in Wales and Northern Ireland, and have been introduced without discussion with the devolved governments or the higher education sector in those nations.

Commenting on the UK Government plans, Higher Education Minister Richard Lochhead said: “In the face of huge uncertainty, Scottish universities and colleges are working to continue to deliver world class, and safe, learning and teaching.

“So the UK Government’s plan to restrict the number of English students that can come to Scotland – a plan which neither the Scottish Government nor Universities Scotland have agreed to – is deeply disappointing. 

“Administrations in Wales and Northern Ireland have also objected. 

“It is completely unnecessary and could add further damage to the sector, given that around 10 per cent of current enrolments are from England.  

“The UK Government should be working with the devolved administrations to support higher education at time of crisis not imposing, without agreement, targets and sanctions which are aimed at stabilising the English market and are not relevant to Scotland.”

Alastair Sim, director of Universities Scotland, said: “Number controls were a specific solution to address a specific admissions problem in England, that Scotland’s universities had no part in.

“At no point has it been in any way clear that the UK Government intended to extend controls beyond England. This is a late and low blow.

“The devolved administrations should be removed from this intended legislative change.

“It is not the role of the UK Government to determine student numbers in Scotland nor should the actions of the UK Government undermine student mobility within all nations of the UK. 

“The financial impact of the pandemic is causing significant concern for our universities and their student and staff communities.

“The UK Government’s package of measures for UK universities in early May was England-only in the financial support it offered but it now seems to be UK-wide when it comes to the controls. This is unacceptable.”

Scottish Labour’s education spokesperson, Iain Gray, said: “Scotland’s universities have an excellent reputation, and it is unsurprising that so many students from around the UK and the rest of the world choose to study here.

“Diversity within our student population is something to be celebrated, and the financial boost to universities from students arriving from outside Scotland cannot be underestimated.

“Putting a cap on the number of students who can move north of the border for university education must be rethought, and is not a decision that should be taken unilaterally.

“Scottish, Northern Irish and Welsh universities will suffer if Westminster does not reconsider its position.

“The Scottish Government must make sure it has a seat at the table and a voice in any further discussions about the future of Scottish universities.”

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