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Fees refugees turn eyes on Scotland.

Byline: By Rhodri Phillips

Pupils are looking north of the Border for cheaper education, with new figures revealing a sharp increase in the number of English students applying to Scottish universities.

Figures released by university admissions body Ucas show that this year, nearly 28,000 English students have applied to study in Scotland ( 17.7pc up on last year.

The same figures show Newcastle University has suffered its first drop in applications since 2001.

Numbers are down by 1.9pc from 26,976 applications in 2004 to 26,459 this year.

The Government plans to introduce top-up fees of up to pounds 3,000 a year in England and Wales from 2006, whereas English students in Scotland currently pay fees of only pounds 1,200 a year.

Teachers in the region said last night the Ucas figures were evidence of pupils heading north in search of a cheaper education ( and the situation was likely to get worse.

Carolyn Roberts, headteacher at Durham Johnston School in Durham City, said: "I think that it is undoubtedly the case that the tuition fees issue will increase the number of people who look at Scottish universities.

"Scotland is convenient for the North of England and our pupils have a long history of studying in Scotland. When tuition fees are introduced the numbers applying will increase and we are already starting to see this."

Robin McAlpine, a spokesman for Universities Scotland, said the increase in applications from English students to Scottish universities this year was the start of the backlash against top-up fees.

He said: "This is a big increase in applications. There is no question about it. This is almost undoubtedly linked to top-up fees. We are seeing the backlash of the Higher Education policy south of the border."

The Scottish Executive is so concerned about the increase in "fee refugees" that they have announced they will increase the fees English students pay in Scotland.

Mr McAlpine said before this year's Ucas figures were announced that he expected the Scottish Executive to increase tuition fees for English students by pounds 700 a year ( but he now expects the increase to be as much as pounds 900.

He said that, although the number of extra applications had risen dramatically, this would not necessarily translate into students actually taking up places on courses.

He said: "The actual increase in the number of students who will be coming to Scotland from England next year is about 200.

"We have 120,000 in the Scottish Higher Education system, so that number is negligible. We shouldn't overact. My message to English students is come to Scotland to study because we can offer a good education. not because it is cheap." There are 27,797 English students applying to Scottish universities this year ( compared to 23,611 last year.

The number of English students applying to English universities has also increased by 9.7pc as school leavers scramble to start their courses before tuition fees are introduced.

There are 283,536 English students applying to study in England this year ( compared to 258,477 last year. Even though Newcastle University witnessed a down-turn, applications to Durham University were up by 11.2pc, to Northumbria University by 1.6pc and to Sunderland University by 6.3pc.

A Newcastle University spokesman said: "There is no obvious reason why we have a small downturn this year but we will be analysing the figures."
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Copyright 2005 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 18, 2005
Previous Article:`Phase-in equal pay'.
Next Article:Fewer Scots are heading south, but more students from England head north.

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