THE POLITICS and finance of student tuition fees appear to have been stood firmly on their head, as Scottish universities show a proportionately greater increase in recruits from England than from home-based Scots.
This is despite Government insistence that students from elsewhere in the UK must pay up to an extra Pounds 1,000 for the fourth year of a Scottish degree while Scots and EU students are exempt.
The latest statistics from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service show an increase of 42 Scottish-based students compared with the final position last year - a rise of 0.18 per cent to 22,190. Students from England are up 6.7 per cent to 4,579. Admissions from Northern Ireland rose from 1,606 to 1,665.
Just as puzzlingly, 1,000 fewer Scots are heading for English universities when an increase might have been expected given the shorter, and cheaper, degree courses south of the border.
Overall, accepted applicants to Scottish universities from Britain and overseas now stand at 31,234, a 2 per cent increase from last year's final figure of 30,585. Scotland is the only home country to show a rise and a sharp contrast with a UK drop of 5 per cent.
This compares remarkably with the picture in February when UK applications as a whole were down 4.2 per cent against a Scottish decrease of 6.1 per cent. At that time applicants to Scottish universities from England and Northern Ireland were showing respective falls of 5.2 per cent and 7.4 per cent.
A spokesman for the National Union of Students in Scotland reserved judgment until the final figures were analysed. It is particularly concerned at the decline in mature student numbers.
"Our view remains that tuition fees are just another hurdle for students, " the spokesman said. "The figures don't reveal how many students are deterred from applying in the first place, since they don't appear in the figures."