We at EUSA believe that education should be free, and that tuition fees should be opposed across the board. But when it comes down to transforming words into action, all too often all of the focus is on UK undergraduates. Of course, it’s a great tragedy that for students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the University of Edinburgh is now the most expensive place to study in the UK, but this is not the only example of unfair fees on our campus.
International students from outside of the European Union get a really raw deal when it comes to fees. Not only do they have to face a racist UK Borders Agency which is increasingly hostile towards them, they are subject to the most unjust fee system in higher education. While student from Scotland and the EU pay nothing for their undergraduate tuition (quite rightly) and students from the Rest of UK pay £9000 per year, students from outside the EU will pay up to £16.500 for this upcoming year’s tuition. In many cases, the fee level is well above the cost to the University. In other words, it is a profit-making venture.
But if this were not bad enough, unlike students from the UK and EU, there is no guarantee that these fees will not rise. Rest-of-UK (RUK) undergraduate students beginning next year will pay £9000 a year for the course of their degree. Students from outside the EU, by contrast, will pay somewhere between £12,500 and £16,500 next year but the year after could be much more. In fact, many students have found that the fees for their fourth year are a whole £2000 more than those in their first. Worse still, the information given about this is so poor that many students do not realise that their fees will rise until they get their somewhat larger invoice at the beginning of their second year.
There is a popular myth that international students are made of money, so £500 here and £1000 there doesn’t matter. But this is simply not true. EUSA recently conducted a survey on international student fees and over 75% said that annual fee have a negative impact on their finances and ability to afford to be at university. One student pointed out that this year’s increase was the equivalent of two months’ spending. Another explained that come the final couple of months of study they were relying on the discretionary fund.
EUSA doesn’t think that this if fair at all. We see education as a public service which should be paid by progressive taxation, but if we are forced to accept tuition fees they should at the very least be transparent. We are pursuing this in the University and the Scottish Parliament. Sarah Boyack MSP has on our request submitted a motion to the Parliament calling for greater regulation. We applaud her work here and hope that MSPs from all parties will support this positive cause.