A test­ing time for aca­demic pol­icy

The Courier & Advertiser (Dundee Edition) - - COMMENT -

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.

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