ST Andrews University has defended its decision to introduce £9000 a year fees for students from the rest of the United Kingdom (RUK) despite claims the institution is now the most expensive in the country.
The new fee was agreed at a meeting of the University Court last week and the decision was immediately criticised by the Students’ Association and the National Union of Students.
Principal, Professor Louise Richardson, defended the move, saying the fee was still less than the cost of providing tuition and pointing to new measures introduced to support students financially.
St Andrews’ Students Association president, Patrick O’Hare, told the Citizen: “This unprecedented hike is precisely the wrong message to be sending out when St Andrews already struggles to attract students from state schools - and especially those from the most deprived areas.
“With the cost of living in St Andrews taken into account, this now makes the town the most expensive place in the UK to study for those from England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
“One commitment we did secure was that all money generated by the increased fees would go towards bursaries and the cost of educating students at St Andrews.
‘‘In addition, student representatives won an agreement on the principle that any income from the redistributed RUK teaching grant should be spent on mitigating the negative impact of this fee hike.”
Last week’s increase came shortly after Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Herriot Watt Universities voted to introduce £9000 fees for RUK students although the latter two opted not to charge anything for the fourth year of courses.
Among the new support measures being introduced at St Andrews is the Fife Dux Scholarship which seeks to strengthen the university’s links with local schools.
Some £7500 per year in cash will be awarded to successful applicants with the best aggregate results in any of Fife’s secondary schools.
Defending the changes, Professor Richardson said: “We are not a wealthy institution.
“In spite of our age and our international standing, our endowment is remarkably small. Indeed, the primary purpose of our 600th Anniversary fundraising campaign is to build a large and lasting endowment to support our students and staff.
‘‘Quite simply, we cannot afford not to charge £9000 per annum.”
North East Fife MSP, Rod Campbell, said the bursary system was now more important than ever before if students from all backgrounds were to have an equal opportunity to learn at St Andrews.
He added: “I am disappointed that the University Court of St Andrews has decided to implement the maximum charge for RUK students. Given the precedent set by Edinburgh, though, I am not surprised.
“The SNP Government is opposed to tuition fees anywhere in the UK, a point that has been made clear from the beginning.
‘‘Owing to the actions of the Westminster Coalition Government, however, the Scottish Government has had no choice but to act.”