Fears rise over universities reserving clearing places

17th August 2012 at 01:00
Student leaders warn that fee-paying students may be given preference over Scots

Student leaders fear that Scottish universities may be tempted to reserve places in clearing for applicants from England, Wales or Northern Ireland, at the expense of home students.

This is the first year that Scottish universities have been allowed to charge students from the rest of the UK (RUK) up to pound;9,000 per annum in tuition fees, making them and international students a more lucrative catch than Scottish or EU students, who are exempt from paying fees.

A spokesman for NUS Scotland told TESS that although places for Scottish and EU students were capped, Scottish universities had discretion to recruit a further 10 per cent of students over and above that target figure.

The student body is concerned that some universities may make these places available only to RUK students through clearing, following the publication of A-level results yesterday.

Robin Parker, NUS Scotland president, said: "With A-level results out this week, it's a test of the new RUK fees system in Scotland and a test of whether Scottish universities are working in the public benefit or to their own financial one.

"We've always said that charging students from the rest of the UK up to pound;36,000 for a degree is deeply unfair to those students. However, if we find that clearing places are only available for students from England, Wales or Northern Ireland, it'll be a clear injustice for Scottish students, too."

Mr Parker added that if universities went into clearing for RUK students only, when they hadn't used their full discretion to recruit as many Scottish students as they could, they would be "found out" for having money as their overriding motive.

Alastair Sim, director of Universities Scotland, said: "Places at Scottish universities for students from the rest of the UK are no longer subject to the same cap as places for Scottish and EU students. As such, some universities will have more flexibility when recruiting students from the rest of the UK on particular courses - for example, where capacity is not limited by lab space.

"However, there is no question that places intended for Scots and EU students could go to students from the rest of the UK - strict measures are in place to prevent this."

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