Allowing wealthy families to "leapfrog" the system by playing for places is not the answer to the challenges the sector is facing, a union leader has said.

Sir Peter Mathieson, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh, said the idea was "worthy of calm consideration" to keep money in the Scottish system and prevent a talent exodus.

In 2022, Edinburgh received 75,438 applications for around 6000 places, an increase of more than 17,000 compared to 2018. 

The Scottish Government caps the number of Scottish students each university can take while institutions are also bound by 'widening participation' quotas. 

Mary Senior, Scotland official of the University and College Union (UCU) said a two-tier system that "marketised and commodified" education was not something to aspire to.

READ MORE: Tuition fees for wealthy 'worth considering' says Scots university principal

She said the fact that the principal of Scotland's biggest university had stated publicly that fee-payers were subsidising the system was "deeply worrying".

She suggested that more progressive forms of taxation would be a fairer solution to ensure public services deliver what people expect.

She said she welcomed Humza Yousaf's renewed commitment yesterday to maintaining free higher education but added: "They've got to back it up with funding.

"What's been worrying is we have actually seen the reverse, with £20million being pulled from the higher education budget.

The Herald:

"The issues at Edinburgh are not unique to Edinburgh and underline the long-term under-funding of universities in Scotland by the Scottish Government.

"The fact that the level it is funded has not changed in a significant amount of time is deeply problematic.

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"The financial settlement universities got in the most recent budget is basically flat cash. Inflation is in double digits."

She said the amount the government paid per student was not meeting the cost of delivering "the education they are expecting." 

Undergraduate home fees are capped by the Scottish Government at £1,820 for the 2022/23 academic year. 

The RUK (rest of the UK) fees are currently capped at £9,250. Overseas fees are set by institutions and can be much higher depending on the course and institution

She said the UCU had "never been happy" with a system that allows applicants from the rest of the UK to pay for places at Scottish universities.

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She said: "We don't think the answer is for families who can afford it to leapfrog the rest of the students. Clearly that's not what we want to see.

"There is something really disconcerting about a two-tier system in Scotland."

"It really marketises and commodifies education.

"What would be preferable would be more, progressive form of taxation, people who earn more should pay more so that it does contribute to having good quality healthcare and education."

"The teaching budget doesn't cover everything that it should do and Peter Mathieson acknowledges that, where he says that the more lucrative fee paying students are contributing to the education that everyone is receiving.

"It's clearly interesting that he is saying that as the principal of Edinburgh University, which is the biggest university in Scotland and one of the most successful.

"It can attract lots of international students and that isn't the mission of every university."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Since 2012/13, we have invested over £1 billion per year in Scotland’s universities, to ensure that our universities continue to deliver a high standard of education for all students.

“Since 2006-07, the number of Scottish-domiciled full-time first-degree entrants has increased by over 31%.

“Latest UCAS data shows Scottish domiciled acceptances to Scottish providers, are up 5% between 2019 (last year exams were sat) and 2022 – now up to 35,690."