Scottish Universities are full (if you are Scottish)

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As parents, my wife and I are quietly happy to be having a break from the stress of waiting for exam results (report, 08/08/17).  We know the huge pressure on children to perform well if they want to go on to their dream job or place at university/college.

As a Dean of one of Scotland’s best universities, I know the huge benefits that come with gaining a place at college or university. It is something we often take for granted, but it is always humbling to hear the sacrifices people make to attend university. This is a particular issue in Scotland where the SNP have cut the bursaries for the very poorest students – forcing many to work long hours to fund their studies.

Nonetheless, it is gratifying to see exam results improving across the board in Edinburgh. Indeed, a big argument for Labour going into coalition in our Capital was to block Edinburgh SNP having sole control of education.

As well as good news, however, the exam results texts and e-mails will contain bad news for some young Scots who hoped to attend university. For those who narrowly missed the entry criteria, rejection can be a bitter pill to swallow. It can be life changing.

Traditionally, Scots in that position could enter the clearing system and find a place elsewhere. However, the SNP cap on university places means many Scottish universities will not enter clearing. Those that do, may only do so to find students from deprived backgrounds in order to meet Scottish Government targets.

That’s right, education is free in Scotland but bursaries have been cut and places are limited by the SNP. If you are English and want to study in Scotland, it is a different matter.  However, unlike students from the EU, the SNP force universities to charge English students fees.

Scots students will be told this week that our universities are full, but next week room will be found for English applicants entering clearing for a place in Scotland – phone lines will stay open all weekend for them. Remember that the next time SNP say they are “Stronger for Scotland”!

We need an university system for the many, not the few.

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