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Tuesday, 25 January, 2000, 20:19 GMT
Anger at 'shabby' fees agreement
Student leaders and opposition politicians have condemned the Scottish Executive's deal on student tuition fees.
The package has been approved by Scottish Cabinet ministers at a meeting in Edinburgh and is now before Labour and Liberal Democrat parliamentary groups.
The future of the Labour-Lib Dem coalition depended on the outcome of negotiations on fees which began just before Christmas when businessman Andrew Cubie delivered the findings of his inquiry.
The agreement now reached has preserved the coalition with both sides saying their pledges have been fulfilled - but there are claims to the contrary.
Kenny Hannah, president of the Glasgow Caledonian University students association, said it was a "cheap fix". "I think it is not the end of tuition fees," he declared.
'Why did we have Cubie?'
"Certainly, for Scottish students studying in UK universities outside Scotland, it is not the end of tuition fees for them.
"It is the end of front-loaded tuition fees for Scottish students studying in Scotland, but is the introduction of rear-ended tuition fees.
"I would see it as a cheap fix in order to keep the Liberal Democrats and the Labour party in Scotland in the coalition.
"The question I'd like to ask the Scottish Executive is: 'Why did we have Cubie?'"
Under the package, Scottish students at English universities will continue paying tuition fees as will English students in Scotland.
James Wright, vice-chancellor of Newcastle University, said: "I am very disappointed that what they appear to be deciding will make it more difficult ... discouraging Scottish students from making a free choice between Scottish universities and English, Welsh or Northern Irish universities."
"It sort of separates up the system. I think it is just sad that we are seeing an artificial and in my view unnecessary division created."
Andy Myles, chairman of Lib Dems' working group on Cubie, rejected claims of a sellout: "That is complete rubbish, this is the abolition of tuition fees.
"By my understanding 97% of Scottish students won't pay tuition fees by September this year, a year ahead of the Cubie proposals.
Lib Dems 'caved in'
"Next year, in 2001, the introduction of this bursary scheme will come about and that's where the repayment element comes in, for the bursary scheme, not for tuition fees, so it is not deferred payment."
Scottish National Party education spokesman John Swinney: "Cubie recommended grant support of £4,100 for many students from low income backgrounds living away from home, but the executive may be offering only half of this.
"And deferred payment of tuition fees may kick in when a graduate is earning less than average earnings - a far cry from Cubie's recommended £25,000 threshold.
"The Lib Dems have caved in on deferred payment of tuition fees - which does not represent abolition - and also their manifesto promise that all Scots attending UK universities would have their tuition fees scrapped."
The Tories' education spokesman Brian Monteith, said: "This will clip the wings of students wishing to study on the best courses in the UK. It spells the death knell of the UK university system.
"Students should be able to choose the best courses if they are in England without having to pay tuition fees for going there.
"This is a direct consequence of the desire to save the Scottish Executive coalition."
The Scottish Parliament's Green MSP Robin Harper said: "There are two bits of political chicanery here.
"One is an attempt to sweeten the pill by cutting the total contribution to £2,000, when in the end more students will be paying and paying more over all.
"The other is to suggest that this represents the spirit of the Cubie report recommendations.
"This is now quite definitely a graduate tax rather than a contribution paid only by those who have gained a significant financial advantage from their degrees.
"The parliament should reject this cobbled apology and accept the Cubie report in full as the National Union of Students is calling for."
While university leaders offered a cautious welcome to the new deal on offer, the teachers themselves expressed disappointment that Cubie's recommendations had not been implemented in full.
Director of the Committee of Scottish Higher Education Principals (COSHEP), David Caldwell, said: "The Scottish higher education sector remains committed to the package of measures the Cubie Committee proposed.
"The Scottish Executive has gone quite a long way towards adopting that package, and we certainly welcome most of what it is proposing."
The Association of University Teachers was less welcoming. Research officer, Dr Tony Axon, said: Cubie should have been implemented in full and it is particularly disappointing that a full bursary for the poorest students has been ruled out on cost grounds."
Links to other Scotland stories are at the foot of the page.
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