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The BBC's Mike Baker reports
"It's created a policy headache for the Westminster government"
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Henry McLeish, Scottish Minister
"We want to help those in hardship"
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Tuesday, 25 January, 2000, 19:26 GMT
Ministers defend fees deal

Graphic Debate on student finance led by Cubie Committee


The Scottish Executive has insisted that "no Scottish student will be worse off" as a result of the tuition fees agreement.

The package, which has been agreed by Scottish ministers, ends the payment of up-front fees for Scottish students at Scottish higher education establishments.

But Scottish students in England and those from England, Wales or Northern Ireland in Scotland will have to continue paying fees under the deal, which opposition politicians have branded a "shabby compromise".

The scheme is a compromise on the original proposals of the Cubie committee, which was set up as part of the Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition government agreement.

Pledges 'intact'

The agreement preserves the coalition, with both sides maintaining that their election manifesto pledges remain intact.

Under the system, which comes into effect later this year, Scottish students at Scottish universities will start to repay 2,000 once their salary reaches 10,000 after graduation.

The deal
Up-front fees to go by autumn 2000
Applies to Scottish students at Scottish universities
Total payment of 2,000 and not 3,075 into a special fund
Special fund used to provide grants to poor students
The Cubie committee had recommended that graduates pay back 3,075 once their earnings reached 25,000, and that the scheme would apply to Scottish students studying both in Scotland and England.

The compromise package is restricted to Scottish students in Scotland. There were concerns that the original proposal would have fallen foul of European rules on discrimination if European students studying at an English university would have to pay fees while Scottish students studying alongside them did not.

Transitional arrangements

The Scottish Parliament will hear a statement on Wednesday from Enterprise and Lifelong Learning Minister Henry McLeish and a debate is to take place on Thursday.

The first year cost of the scheme is said to be 27m rising to 50m in subsequent years.


Studnets at computer Students are trying to figure out what the deal means
From the 50m, 17m will come from the "endowment contribution", to make a net cost of 33m, an executive spokesman said.

Transitional arrangements will be put in place when the scheme comes into effect later this year for existing first and second year students, who will already have paid up front charges towards tuition fees.

The spokesman said the salary level of 10,000 had been chosen to avoid setting up another layer of red tape as 10,000 was the level at which student loans became repayable.

'Discredit' claim denied

The spokesman denied the package had met with resistance from ministers in England, saying Tony Blair and Education Minister, David Blunkett, had been kept informed as the Scottish ministerial working group progressed.

He dismissed suggestions that by having two systems in place within the UK, tuition fees in England would be "discredited".


Brian Monteith Brian Monteith: "Consequence of saving coalition"
The Scottish Conservatives' education spokesman, Brian Monteith, said: "It's astonishing - this will ensure that more students will pay tuition fees than already do at the moment.

"It will include graduates going into teaching, nursing and the police, which are hardly the jobs of the well off.

"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.

Executive 'caved in'

"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."

And the SNP's John Swinney claimed the Liberal Democrats had caved in, and that the deal on offer was heavily watered down.

"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," he said.

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The Cubie deal
Sell-out or saviour? MSPs battle it out.
  
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See also:
25 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Anger at 'shabby' fees deal
25 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Students reject Cubie deal
25 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Reid fields opposition fees' anger
25 Jan 00 |  UK Politics
68m hardship package for students
25 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Framework document for wider education access
22 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Europe could rule on fees plan
16 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Brown 'faces tuition fees headache'

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