Last week, I attended an event looking at concerns over the issue of rising tuition fees for international students. The event followed on from a motion I lodged in Parliament in July highlighting the issue and was an opportunity to discuss progress.
There are an estimated 25,000 students from outside the EU studying at university in Scotland. The level of tuition fees that these students pay varies from institution to institution and in some cases amounts to tens of thousands of pounds a year. So it’s a major financial commitment made by students and their families or sponsors to generate the finance to enable them to study here. That’s why I was concerned when I heard from Edinburgh University Student Association of the problems that students face as a result of changes to their fees throughout the duration of their course.
EUSA highlighted their concerns over this issue and provided examples of the hardship caused. It can make the difference between whether students can complete their studies or are forced to leave their course. When students sign up to a course they are not told that their fees might rise and the fluctuation of fees makes it difficult for international students to budget for their studies. Ultimately the situation could act as a disincentive students thinking about studying in Scotland.
International students bring a number of benefits to Scotland and its higher education institutions. The fee income from these students allows universities to invest in enhanced facilities which benefit all students. At the same time, attracting the best and brightest from around the world enhances our research base and builds strong economic and cultural links between Scotland and the students’ home countries.
I was pleased to learn in the build up to the meeting that Edinburgh University have committed to looking at fixed or inflation linked fees. The commitment, which I have followed up with the University’s Principal, is a step towards ensuring a fairer system for international students and I hope that other universities will follow their lead.