The Universities of Edinburgh and St Andrews confirmed last week that they would be charging UK students from outside Scotland £9000 a year for their degree courses.
The fee is the standard charged by universities across the UK, but the extended length of Scottish courses means that the total cost of a degree could reach £36,000.
Aberdeen and Heriot-Watt Universities have capped their fees at £27,000, whilst fees at Glasgow Caledonian will not exceed £21,000.
Students studying Medicine at Edinburgh and Aberdeen Universities will be charged £9000 a year for five years, creating a fee total of £45,000.
Students’ unions across Scotland reacted with outrage. Graeme Kilpatrick, the Deputy President of NUS Scotland, accused Edinburgh University of “cashing in” on students from other parts of the UK.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said that the government’s priority was “to protect opportunities for Scottish students to study at Scottish institutions.”
Matt McPherson, President of the Edinburgh University Students’ Association, called the announcement “hugely disappointing” and announced “a dark day for students.”
The two organisations are now taking their campaign for fairer university fees to the Scottish Government, and called on universities across Scotland to support their students in joining the campaign.
Professor Mary Bownes, Edinburgh University’s Vice-Principal for external engagement, described the increased fees as “necessary” and claimed that the University’s generous bursaries would ensure that disadvantaged students from the rest of the UK were not discouraged.
Students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds will be entitled to bursaries of up to £28,000. Grants will also be made available to those who excel academically.
Both Edinburgh and Heriot Watt Universities also defended the new fees as proportional to the world class education a student could expect to receive at either institution.
Students normally resident in Scotland will continue to pay nothing at Scottish institutions, as will all students from other EU countries. A growing campaign, led by human rights lawyer Phil Shiner, seeks to demonstrate that the Scottish government’s policy is in violation of human rights law.
Scotland’s Education Secretary Mike Russell described the UK’s fees system as “elitist” and “deeply discriminatory.”
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government defended the plans, arguing that tuition fees are “based on ‘ordinary domicile’, not nationality.”