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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 December 2007, 18:37 GMT
MSPs support graduate charge plan
Graduates

Scottish Government plans to scrap the student graduate endowment have been narrowly backed by parliament.

Ministers said that scrapping the 2,289 charge would help relieve financial pressures facing graduates.

Support for the move came despite Holyrood's education committee recommending that it would not remove barriers to higher education.

MSPs voted for the plans, which will now proceed to the next stage of parliamentary scrutiny, by 65 to 60.

The SNP's election promise to scrap the graduate endowment won the support of the Liberal Democrats.

Abolishing the endowment does not tackle access issues and it does not tackle issues of student poverty
Rhona Brankin
Labour education spokeswoman

However, Labour and the Conservatives said the 17m-a-year cost would be better spent supporting universities.

Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop said the average student today left university with debts of 11,000 and that this fear was stopping them from pursuing higher education.

"Removing this unfair fee will help relieve some of the financial pressures facing graduates as they start their working lives," she said.

Ms Hyslop said of the endowment: "It has failed students by not achieving its stated aim of widening access.

"It has failed the taxpayer by proving to be 'worst value' for the public purse."

Liberal Democrat education spokesman Jeremy Purvis said the evidence brought forward by the SNP government on the issue was in a "very poor state of readiness", while recalling an SNP promise last year to dump student debt.

He said: "We will be supporting it. We want it to be better."

'Unprecedented threat'

Labour education spokeswoman Rhona Brankin said only half of all students paid the endowment, as those from poorer backgrounds were not liable for the charge.

"We don't take the simplistic view of the government that abolishing the graduate endowment will automatically increase access to higher education," she said.

"Abolishing the endowment does not tackle access issues and it does not tackle issues of student poverty."

Murdo Fraser, the Tory education spokesman, told parliament that Scottish universities were facing an "unprecedented threat" due to a lack of funding and a growing competitive gap with their counterparts in England.

"Rather than spend money on supporting our universities, today the SNP are proposing to cut 17m per year from the education budget and to use that to abolish the graduate endowment.

"That is a proposal which the Scottish Conservatives cannot support."

SEE ALSO
How MSPs voted in the parliament
20 Dec 07 |  Scotland
MSPs reject graduate charge plan
13 Dec 07 |  Scotland
Graduate endowment evidence row
07 Nov 07 |  Scotland
Graduate endowment fee abolished
13 Jun 07 |  Scotland
Scots student rack up fewer debts
02 Mar 07 |  Scotland
Questions over university funding
06 Oct 06 |  Scotland
SNP makes 'free education' pledge
22 Jul 06 |  Scotland
Q&A : Graduate endowments
13 Jun 07 |  Scotland

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