Edinburgh University will become the most expensive place in Britain for English, Welsh and Northern Irish students to study when new university fees are brought in next year.
Having announced that they will now charge £36,000 for a degree, Edinburgh, one of the most popular universities amongst British students, has become £9,000 more expensive than other universities charging the maximum fee. It will also put Edinburgh £11,000 more expensive than the £25,000 fees of Oxford and Cambridge.
This is due to the majority of courses in Scotland have a duration of four years, meaning that students have always been required to pay that little bit more than at English universities. But what has sparked the greatest debate is Edinburgh’s refusal to cap its fees like Heriot Watt and Aberdeen Universities.
Both Heriot Watt and Aberdeen will charge the maximum £9,000 per year for non-Scottish students, but have decided to cap fees at £27,000, essentially matching the cost of a normal three year course in the rest of Britain.
Scottish students, by contrast, will continue to pay absolutely nothing, assured Alex Salmond, Leader of the Scottish National Party. And, in an anti-discrimination attempt, students from the EU will also enjoy the privilege of not paying fees to attend university in Scotland which is likely to further irritate students from south of the border.
“This is nothing less than cashing in on students from the rest of the UK”, said Graeme Kirkpatrick, deputy president of NUS Scotland.
He emphasised how this move shows how the university is “more interested in the money you can bring, as opposed to your academic ability.”
He added, "The reputational damage this could do, not only to Edinburgh but to the whole of Scottish higher education, should not be underestimated."
Accomodating 5,773 undergraduates from the rest of the UK, Edinburgh is clearly a highly popular university, making their decision even more significant.
In an attempt to explain the reasons behind the rise in fees, Professor Mary Bownes, the University's vice chancellor for external engagement, said: "The increase in the fee is necessary as we will no longer receive government funding for the rest of the UK domiciled students.”
Despite having a four year degree to charge for, the sight of £36,000 per degree could well be enough to deter students from applying next year, even those with dreams of an Edinburgh education.
Professor Bownes thinks her University is worthy of this amount of money, “These students will be studying at one of the world's top teaching and research institutions, regularly ranked amongst the leading universities in the world”, she said.
Edinburgh may struggle to maintain this reputation if intakes drop significantly.
Worries of "fee refugees" were another apparent reason for such a sharp rise in costs. The fear that students from the rest of the UK would seek a cheaper education, once fees rose in the south.
A “generous bursary package” is to be offered to students from the rest of the UK from the poorest backgrounds, funded by half of the additional tuition fees.
Edinburgh will need to make sure these are suitable and well marketed for danger their Student Experience becomes too expensive for most.
St. Andrews and Glasgow Universities, the other most popular Scottish universities, have yet to announce whether they will follow suit with Edinburgh. And would such a move put the future of Scottish education at serious risk?