The Government is determined to stick by its policy on student tuition fees, despite a heavy defeat in the House of Lords on Tuesday night.
This was the second time peers voted against the so-called Scottish anomaly, under which students in Scotland from England, Wales and Northern Ireland will pay tuition fees for the four years of a Scottish degree. Scottish and European Union students will pay for only three.
An amendment to exempt all UK students from paying fees for the fourth year of a degree was passed by 212 votes to 89. This reinstated an earlier vote in the Lords, which had been overturned in the Commons. It is the first time in this Parliament that peers have insisted on retaining a Lords amendment rejected by MPs.
Lord MacKay of Ardbrecknish, the Tory spokesman on Scottish affairs, moved the amendment to the Teaching and Higher Education Bill. He said the policy was "simply not fair" and overturning it would cost only pound;2 million.
But Lord Sewel, the Scottish Office minister, said the real cost would be about pound;27 million because several UK higher education institutions outside Scotland ran four year degree courses.
A Scottish Office spokesman said the Commons would be asked again to reject the Lords amendment. He said English, Welsh and Irish students had not been significantly deterred from applying to Scottish universities by the proposed fee charges.
"Students from elsewhere in the UK applying to Scottish institutions, at almost 33,000 by mid-May, still outnumber the 27, 000 Scottish applicants," the spokesman said.