Alasdair Allan MSP has called on Tory MSPs to distance themselves from their colleague Liz Smith’s endorsement of bringing back “backdoor tuition fees” which could stop students from lower-income families in the Western Isles from attending university.
Bringing back graduate endowment fees would force graduates to pay a significant lump sum after leaving university – with the policy costing graduates £2000 in 2007.
Alasdair Allan MSP has said Liz Smith’s proposals would be a dangerous step backwards for widening access to tertiary education in Scotland, with the potential to rip away opportunities for many young people in the Western Isles who would be very unlikely to be in a financial position where they could stump up this kind of fee upon completion of their university degree.
Since the SNP brought in funded university tuition, the number of Scottish domiciled first time full time degree entrants has increased by 31% and there is a record number of students from Scotland’s most deprived communities entering university.
The comments from the Scottish Tories’ finance and economy spokesperson also follow Labour Leader Keir Starmer ruling out free tuition under a UK Labour government, breaking a manifesto commitment.
Commenting, the islands’ MSP said:
“Scottish Conservative MSPs must make clear whether they agree with their party colleague Liz Smith that only those with the ability to pay should be able to go to university – if not, they must distance themselves from this classist rhetoric, which threatens to row back years of progress the Scottish Government has made in widening access to university, with entry dependent on ability, not financial status.
“Thanks to action from this Scottish Government, a record number of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds across Scotland are now accessing university. A large factor in making this possible is the SNP’s unwavering commitment to keeping tuition fees free - something both the Tories and Labour have refused to back.
“Ensuring access to university is based on the ability to learn rather than the ability to pay is central to the SNP’s values – while the Tories and Labour are showing that their values are completely out of touch with people in the Western Isles and across Scotland.
“There should not be a price on higher education and the opportunities this education affords students as they enter the world of work. We must ensure that tuition fees in Scotland remain free for everyone.”