The University of Edinburgh has announced an unparalleled £36,000 degree for English, Welsh and Northern Irish students from 2012/13 with £9,000 fees across the full four-years.
This makes Edinburgh University by far the most expensive place to study in the whole of the UK, leading to huge question marks over the likelihood of students from the rest of the UK still coming to Scotland to study for a degree.
Graeme Kirkpatrick, Depute President of NUS Scotland, said: “A £36,000 degree is both staggering and ridiculous. The average cost to study at Oxford and Cambridge is around £25,000 in fees, which while still eye-wateringly large, pales in comparison with this. And that’s before you add additional debt for the extra year of living costs for the four-year degree in Scotland.
“This is nothing less than cashing in on students from the rest of the UK, and giving the signal that Edinburgh University is more interested in the money you can bring, as opposed to your academic ability. The reputational damage this could do, not only to Edinburgh but to the whole of Scottish higher education, should not be underestimated.
“Universities in Scotland seem to think they can charge anything they like, and that students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland will still come here to study regardless. Given that students from the rest of the UK make up about 15% of the whole of Scotland’s university sector they are clearly taking huge risks with tens of thousands of people’s futures, and many millions of pounds.
“Principals are engaged in a race to the top, fearing a lower fee shows a lower quality. It’s a sad day when Edinburgh feels it can only maintain its reputation through its price rather than the quality of education on offer.
“Principals have been given a near free reign in setting fees for rest of UK students, and they are simply abusing this. We will now work with the Scottish Government to improve their proposals for 2013, limiting principals’ discretion, starting with a strong bursary system to protect access for the poorest students.
Matt McPherson, EUSA President, said: "Today is a dark day for students. We believe the University has made the wrong choice in charging students more than anywhere else in the UK for a degree. Indeed, at a level of £36,000, an Edinburgh degree is now one of the most expensive in Europe if you're a student from England, Wales or Northern Ireland. It is thanks to the strength of the Students' Association that the University has offered the best bursary scheme in the UK, and we welcome those bursaries, but we must not forget that the money to provide them is coming from students' pockets.
"Over the past week, EUSA received hundreds of letters from students across the University urging Court members to keep fees as low as possible, to have the same level of fees across the University, and to make sure that at least 30% of fee income goes to bursaries on widening access principles. The University of Edinburgh today had an opportunity to set a precedent for lower fees in Scotland, and it's hugely disappointing that they chose not to take up that opportunity.
"We are deeply concerned that the decision made today will put off capable students from applying to Edinburgh through aversion to debt, barring them the chance to even apply for those bursaries. We will now take our campaign, united with the National Union of Students, to the Scottish Government, when the issue is debated in Parliament. We call on universities across Scotland to come out and support their students in that campaign, to ensure that access to education is based on the ability to learn, not on the ability to pay."