Published on February 20, 2014 | by Callum McCarthy


Free degrees to be offered in an independent Scotland

Edinburgh university

Scottish residents have their tuition fees in paid full by the Scottish Government [Flickr: Neil Turner]

Up to 20,000 students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland will be entitled to a free degree, according to Universities and Science Minister David Willetts.

Students from elsewhere in the UK are currently required to pay up to £9,000 a year to study in Scotland, but that could change if Scotland says ‘yes’ to independence on September 18.

Scottish residents have their tuition fees paid in full by the Scottish Government, and EU anti-discrimination laws currently prevent Scottish universities from charging students from other member states.

But the EU has no say over decisions made within a member state, enabling Scottish universities to charge students from elsewhere in the UK a collective £150 million a year for tuition.

Speaking to The Telegraph, Willetts said: “The EU law is clear that if Scotland becomes a separate state they cannot discriminate against English students – they have to treat them the same way as French or German students.”


The comments were made after the Scottish National Party, who hold a majority in the Scottish parliament, announced plans to continue charging tuition fees for students that are from elsewhere in the UK, even in the case of independence.

But EU Education Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou dismissed the idea, stating that although Scotland could ask for an exception, it is unlikely to be accepted.

Vassiliou said: “According to the information available, no member state is charging different university fees to EU students not residing within its territory. Conditions of access to education, including tuition fees, fall within the scope of EU law and any discrimination on grounds of nationality is prohibited.”

While a degree without fees is sure to attract prospective students from the rest of the UK, the low cost of living and quality of education is enticing as well.

Top universities

Seven of the top 50 universities in The Guardian’s university league tables are in Scotland and a study conducted by finance company, Ukash, found that it can cost almost twice as much to study in London than in Edinburgh.

For London-based Aberdeen graduate Christien Pheby, studying in Scotland presented better value for money, despite living in one of Scotland’s more expensive cities.

Pheby, who graduated in film studies, said: “Aberdeen was fairly pricey, but £2.60 was the most expensive pint I can recall. In terms of rent, I was paying £80 a week for first-year halls. A good night out can be had for £15, and I certainly could have gone even cheaper.”


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