Loophole ‘lets Northern Irish students avoid Scottish tuition fees’
As usual it will be the English Student that is stung for Uni Fees in the UK.
Vote UKip Thursday and in the future to get fairness back in the Countries of the UK.
By CHRIS MARSHALL
Published on Wednesday 2 May 2012 00:00
SCOTTISH universities have denied they are facing an influx of so-called “fee refugees” from Northern Ireland after it emerged some students there are being told that they can obtain free tuition with an Irish passport.
Under the system introduced by the Scottish Government, students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland will have to pay fees of up to £9,000 a year from later this year, while Scottish students and those from elsewhere in the EU will continue to be exempt.
However, it has now emerged that school-leavers in Northern Ireland applying for certain courses are being told they can have free tuition, no matter where they live, as long as they hold an Irish passport.
Anyone who is a citizen of the “island of Ireland” is entitled to apply for an Irish passport, meaning students in Northern Ireland could do so in the hope of avoiding fees.
Yesterday Universities Scotland, which represents university principals, said institutions considered a candidate’s residency, not their nationality, when offering a place.
But Cathy Moore, chairwoman of the Careers Teachers’ Association in Northern Ireland, said: “The Scottish Parliament has said if you have an Irish passport and live in Northern Ireland and provide that [Irish passport], you are eligible to have the fees paid.”
It is understood some Scottish universities have told students in Northern Ireland holding dual nationality they will be exempt from fees, while others have said they will be classed as UK nationals and will have to pay.
A spokesman for Universities Scotland said: “We are taking advice on this issue, but based on the most recent statistics available, there has not been a rise in applicants holding an Irish passport.
“The regulations for rest-of-UK fees are based on applicants’ ordinary residency rather than nationality, and this is the basis on which universities will be processing applications. Universities continue to liaise closely with the Scottish Government and Student Awards Agency Scotland on these regulations to ensure the appropriate fee.”
Education secretary Mike Russell has admitted the situation around funding remains “fluid”, but urged students in Northern Ireland not to rely on being exempt from fees.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are not currently aware of any evidence of a surge in applications from Northern Ireland residents with dual nationality, either this year or in previous years. In fact, the latest statistics published only last week showed precisely no change. However, we will keep the matter under review.
“It is and always has been the case that students holding dual UK or other EU nationality applying to a Scottish university can make an application for their fees to be paid.
“It is a recent development that fees for Scottish universities have increased to bring them into line with fees in England.”
Tory education spokeswoman Liz Smith said: “We are in a position where no-one is really sure exactly who qualifies for free tuition in Scotland and who does not. This confusion is entirely the creation of the Scottish Government.
“When Mike Russell admits the situation is ‘fluid’ he means it is a complete muddle, and it is ludicrous for them to try to point the finger at Westminster.”