SCOTTISH students have become less likely to leave their homeland to go to university elsewhere in the UK, new figures show.

A report by the Sutton Trust charity found the distance travelled to university by Scots had declined in recent years compared to other parts of the UK.

The decline in mobility has been blamed on the high price of a university education south of the Border, with tuition fees of up to £9,000.

Students here pay no fees as long as they attend an institution in Scotland.

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However, concerns have been raised the trend could prevent students from experiencing the benefits of living and studying in another part of the UK.

Mary Senior, Scotland official for the UCU lecturers’ union, said it was not surprising students were mainly staying north of the border given the level of tuition fees elsewhere.

But she students “got a lot more” from university than simply learning the subjects they study.

“By studying, meeting new people and sharing new ideas they become the rounded, critical thinkers society and the economy needs,” she said. “Moving away from home and studying in another part of the UK has traditionally been a positive life experience for many people.

“It’s a shame the marketisation of universities and tuition fees in England are stunting the numbers able to do so.”

The Sutton Trust report Home and Away shows around three quarters of Scottish students attend a university less than 55 miles away from their home, more than the 56 per cent in the UK as a whole who do so.

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Scottish students are also more likely to live at home while studying with just over a third doing so compared to 23 per cent for the UK.

However, disadvantaged students are over three times more likely to live at home while attending university than their most advantaged counterparts.

The report states: “Commuting long distances from Scotland is highly unlikely, particularly given the financial advantages of staying in their home country for Scottish students.”

To address the gaps in student mobility, the Sutton Trust called for universities to do more to support families concerned about their children studying away from home.

“We’d also like selective universities to reserve a proportion of their places for local students,” the report states.

Luke Humberstone, president of student body NUS Scotland, said Scottish students still had debts despite free tuition and called for improved bursary support.

He said: “Not only are the poorest students forced to borrow the most just to get by, they’re also having their options about where to study narrowed down.

“That needs to change because choice cannot be the preserve of the better off.

“We need investment in bursaries to ensure all students get a genuine choice about where they study.”

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A spokesman for Universities Scotland said cross-border funding arrangements, the country’s geography and the concentration of institutions in the central belt were responsible for the figures.

He added: “Staying close to home for study will be the right choice for many and is a necessity for those with children or other caring responsibilities.

“However, we want to make sure there are options to support students to consider going to university away from home and to make that become a reality for those that want it.

“Universities are looking at how to make their bridging programmes more connected so the transition into university starts local to begin with, but offers the option of entry into other universities.”