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Russell gives tuition fee pledge

6 March 10 14:07 GMT

Tuition fees for higher education will not be introduced by the present Scottish government, the education secretary has said.

Mike Russell did admit however that university funding would come under increased pressure in the coming years.

He told the annual NUS Scotland conference in Dunfermline that alternative solutions to tuition fees needed to be fully explored.

Labour said the SNP's approach to education funding was "unsustainable".

Higher education in England and Wales will come under the spotlight when the independent review of higher education funding and student finance, led by Lord Browne of Madingley, publishes its findings.

Mr Russell called for a full debate on the future, involving government, universities and students.

He said: "We cannot hide from what Lord Browne might say.

"We have to acknowledge that it will pose difficult questions for us in Scotland on how we fund our universities and university students in the future.

"But this government does not believe that the answer to those questions is tuition fees."

Referring to the "challenges" of exploring ways to fund Scotland's higher education system, Mr Russell said now was the time to find a "unique Scottish solution" to the issue.

'University offers'

He added: "I want to hear the views of the students, student leaders, university principals, unions and the entire stakeholder community about what we might do in Scotland to provide a long-term and sustainable funding solution - a uniquely Scottish solution - to funding universities in the future."

Labour's further and higher education spokeswoman Claire Baker said that while she was happy that Mr Russell had "chosen to listen to Labour's calls for a review", she said that the SNP government was not the best body to co-ordinate such a dialogue.

She added: "After today's announcement, I would encourage the cabinet secretary to now clarify what alternative funding methods he is prepared to consider.

"I believe that Scotland needs a system that ensures that universities can provide a high quality education but encourages students to take advantage of the opportunities university offers."

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