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EDITIONS
Thursday, 23 January, 2003, 10:43 GMT
Scots universities voice funding fears
Students
Universities claim staffing could be badly hit
University principals have told the Scottish Executive of concerns over the consequences of an increase in tuition fees in England and Wales.

Lifelong Learning Minister Iain Gray denied that a spending gap was in danger of opening up between the higher education systems north and south of the border.

He said some predictions of major shifts of English youngsters to Scottish universities were "rather hysterical".

On Wednesday, UK Education Secretary Charles Clarke announced that universities in England will be allowed to treble their fees to 3,000 a year.

Aberdeen University
Scottish university funding will increase by 6%

In his white paper, Mr Clarke gave English universities a 19% increase in funding over the next three years.

During the same time, Scottish universities will get a 6% rise.

The Association of University Teachers estimates that will leave Scotland out of pocket by 85m.

Principals of Scottish universities warned of a possibility of a pay gap opening up between English and Scottish university staff as a consequence of the announcement.

After the meeting with Mr Gray, David Caldwell, director of the umbrella body, Universities Scotland, said that teachers and researchers in Scotland had fallen behind other professions for years.

Best teachers

"We got away with it in part because exactly the same thing has happened in England, and it is a UK-wide market," he said.

"But if we face a situation where in England they are able to reward the best teachers and researchers better, we will not be able to get away with it any longer.

Mr Caldwell said of the meeting with the minister: "I think we were reassured only to a very limited degree indeed."

But he said the university chiefs were pleased Mr Gray had acknowledged the importance of another early meeting to study in detail the implications of the announcement.

The executive arranged the meeting in order to seek views on what are admitted to be "difficult" implications for Scotland.

The implications are not clear

Lifelong Learning Minister Iain Gray
The Scottish Executive has pledged that top-up fees are not on the agenda for Scotland, and there are to be no "quota" restrictions on non-Scottish students.

Mr Gray said: "Most of the substantive changes in student support in the (English) white paper are not proposed until 2006 onwards.

"And the point I made to the meeting was that I felt that meant we have reasonable time to look at what implications there might be."

He added: "The implications are not clear.

"We have seen some discussions of the impact of flows of students from Scotland to England or England to Scotland.

"Some of those, I would say, are rather hysterical."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Scotland's Martha Fairlie
"They fear the result will be a brain drain effect"
See also:

22 Jan 03 | Scotland
19 Jan 03 | Politics
17 Jan 03 | Education
14 Jan 03 | Education
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