Hundreds of students from south of the Border have shunned the chance to study in Scotland since tuition fees of up to £9,000 were introduced two years ago.


New figures collated by The Herald show students from The number of people coming from England, Wales and Northern Ireland to study at institutions have dropped by 500 since 2011/12 - the year before fees were introduced, according to figures.

With average fees for students from the rest of the UK (rUK) currently some £7,500, the 2.6 per cent drop means universities have lost fee income of £3.75m.

The decline is important because the Scottish Government's decision to stop funding such students and allow universities to charge them fees was intended to open up a new stream of income for the sector.

Instead, it appears many ­universities have lost out as rUK students turn their backs on Scotland, with detailed figures showing 12 out of the country's 18 higher education institutions have seen a reduction in rUK students over the same period.

Last night, academics and student leaders urged institutions to reduce their fees and improve the provision of bursaries and other support payments.

Mary Senior, Scotland official for the UCU lecturers' union, said: "With student numbers from the rest of the UK down we need to look again at the deal these students get.

"Students from different backgrounds and countries, including the rest of the UK, contribute enormously to the educational and cultural experience of attending university and it is important we don't lose that because of the way higher education is financed."

Gordon Maloney, president of NUS Scotland, said universities in Scotland had taken part in a "rush to the top" once fees were introduced and were now paying the price.

He said: "While the decision to raise fees in Scotland was ultimately the result of the Westminster government's disastrous decision to raise fees in England, the Scottish system has gone above and beyond that.

"Not only do £9,000 fees in Scotland mean the highest degree cost in the UK, but at the same time there's no requirement on the part of institutions to provide additional support or promote fair access for students from the rest of the UK."

However, Universities Scotland, which represents university principals, said numbers coming to Scotland from the rest of the UK had always been subject to annual fluctuations, even before the increase in fees.

A spokeswoman said: "There was an expectation that student numbers would suffer a little as an immediate after effect of such a change to the UK system as the introduction of £9,000 fees and the same is true for universities across the UK with student numbers initially taking a while to recover.

"Overall, there is still a good level of demand for a Scottish higher education from across the UK and the number of rUK applicants accepted into Scottish institutions increased last year on the year before.

"The potential volatility of rUK student numbers is one reason we have cautioned against over-reliance on this source of income and if fees were to be lowered in England, with Scotland following suit, this would have a big knock-on effect on the income some universities would see."

Fees of up to £9,000 a year were introduced by Scottish universities for rUK students in 2012/13 as a result of policy changes in ­Westminster which raised fee levels south of the Border which could have led to institutions here being seen as a cheap alternative.

The detailed figures collated by The Herald show many well known known universities have seen rUK numbers fall including Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Strathclyde and St Andrews.

However, gains were made at Edinburgh Napier, Robert Gordon, Stirling and Glasgow, which saw student numbers rise from 2465 to 2626. The market for rUK students is still dominated by Edinburgh University, which has 5,440 students from south of the Border.