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Are Financial Challenges Brewing for Scottish Higher Education?

Posted by Richard Ward in

Image courtesy of Flickr, Creative Commons

A new audit report into higher education in Scotland has warned that SNP government policies have resulted in Scottish school leavers being squeezed out of university.

Audit Scotland reported that a cap on places for Scottish and EU students, which was imposed to ensure that the pledge of free tuition remained affordable, has not kept up with the growing number of applicants.

As a result, it is becoming increasingly difficult for Scottish youngsters to win a place, with nearly one in five not receiving any offer at all in 2015.

This is in contrast to those from the rest of the UK or outside of Europe, which have seen a rise in offer rates of around 11 percent between 2010 and 2015.

The report also referenced the SNP's plans to increase the number of students from deprived background to around 20 percent, nearly double the current proportion. It's expected that any attempts to widen access to those from poorer background will have a knock-on effect for other groups unless funding is increased.

Despite the report suggesting that overall the higher education sector remained financial healthy it did point out some considerable risks.

Most notably the sector faces challenges in its ability to continue to increase income from other sources, in particular fee paying students, as well as possible further reductions in Scottish Government funding, which has fallen six percent in real terms since 2010/11.

As a result, the report suggested that the government needs to ensure its approach to funding higher education is sustainable if its policy priorities are to be delivered.

Scottish Conservatives suggested that the report indicated that current SNP policies were irresponsible.