A testing time for academic policy
Free tuition for Scottish students at Scottish universities has been a popular policy – and understandably so.
To see how hated fees are one need look no further than the case of one time Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg.
Having promised to abolish fees he later backtracked as part of a hugely controversial deal to enter a leading coalition at Westminster.
Mr Clegg faced a furious backlash, with many voters insisting they had been betrayed.
So one can quite understand why the SNP may cling so steadfastly to their “no fees” pledge.
Memorably, Alex Salmond declared: “Rocks will melt with the sun before I allow tuition fees to be imposed on Scottish students.”
But are unintended consequences beginning to undermine what is in theory a positive pledge?
Some Scottish students are apparently missing out on places, not due to lack of academic excellence or achievement, rather because institutions are instead selecting fee paying students from south of the border or further afield.
It is a conundrum with no easy answer. Without those fees, it would not be possible to fund the free places for Scottish students.
Sadly it all amounts to the creation of a near perfect vicious cycle.