Edinburgh University announces UK’s highest fees
“The advancement and dissemination of knowledge”.
This is why the University of Edinburgh exists. That is its mission statement. The university at which I studied has a proud history of holding to this mission. Its graduates have contributed enormously: Charles Darwin, Alexander Graham Bell, James Clerk Maxwell, Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson, J.M. Barrie, and Sir Walter Scott;
Adam Smith and David Hume (though he was kicked out for being an atheist).
‘Influencing the world since 1583’. That is the current strapline. And it is not mere hyperbole. From American founding father to James Wilson to Professor Peter Higgs – whose postulated boson delivered the Large Hadron Collider, Edinburgh can brag about its staff and its alumni with the best of them.
micro-economics, Treasure Island, Peter Pan and Sherlock Holmes; electromagnetism and the great enigma of modern physics. These are what Edinburgh is famous for. These are its history. These things, and something else. Because Edinburgh is unique among Britain’s ancient universities: it wasn’t founded by the church. It was founded by the town council.
And to this day, it retains some of these links, it holds on to some of its quasi-democratic past. The Lord Provost of Edinburgh, George Grubb, sits on the university court – its governing body. The chair of the court – the Rector – is elected every three years by the staff and students. Other members of this board of governors are – at least in theory – elected by different sections of the staff, by students, or by graduates. Whilst the university is at core run like many others, it at least has a final layer of democracy, a small air of accountability.
And to this day – or, perhaps I should say until yesterday – you could tell. In my time as a student at the university – as a student activist, and, ultimately, as a member for a year of that vaguely democratic governing committee – my experience of the university administration was often frustrating. But I always felt that at least some of them understood what the university was about. Some realised that we were there for a simple reason: to advance and disseminate knowledge and understanding. Some understood that this means that everyone capable of learning should have a fair chance to make their way into the university, and to stay there.
Today, that committee – the university court – made a profound decision. They chose to charge students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland £36,000 for a degree. Voting to charge £9000 a year for each of the four years taken by most students at Edinburgh makes it the UK’s most expensive public university: an institution founded on the basic principle of the democratisation of knowledge now charges more for a degree than anyone other.
Which students will come to Scotland now? For generations, bright students from Northern Ireland, Wales and England have converged in the Edinburgh because of the university. The equivalent influx on 1960s California’s free universities delivered Silicon Valley and California’s booming economy. Scotland had the chance to be the California of the UK. But today, Edinburgh University has thrown that chance away. And they have thrown away hundreds of years of history: you cannot claim to exist primarily to disseminate knowledge when you charge more for that knowledge than any other UK university. You cannot do so honestly. And when you charge so much, when so many will make their decision about whether to study at Edinburgh based on the level of the fees rather than their interest or intellect, can the university truly expect that its future graduates will be so illustrious? Can they continue to ‘influence the world’ as they follow it into the auction hall? What a tragedy.
While it might have been nice if they’d agreed to cap it at £27,000 (i.e the equivalent of a normal 3 year English degree) this seems to me to be entirely of the making of the Westminster government. It’s totally expected that they’d raise prices in Scotland to avoid Scotland being flooded by ‘fees-refugees’.
I’ve spent a couple months working for SAAS, just now, so I’ve got a little insight into how the funding side all works. The best solution I can think of unless Westminster decided in favour of free-education is a fees loan to cover the tuition, which is what Scottish students who study in England already have. Being saddled with debt is no fun, but is at least a loan that’s only paid off if you earn over £15,000 and is written off after about 35 years.
Anyhow, if English students want to take advantage of Scottish government provisions, their families can do what I did, and move to Scotland…
on your second point, I do apologise – that’ll teach me for writing hurridly and trusting the wikipedia list of Edinburgh graduates. Thinking back, there is a time, only a couple of years ago, when I knew that fine well. How embarrasing.
On your first, as a Scot who paid no fees to go to Edinburgh, I am well aware of that. Thanks.
Ellie: first, allowing people from outside to come to study for free is arguably what made California so wealthy – people often stay.
However, I do agree that there is a risk of Scots students being squeezed out. I think there is quite possibly a case for quotas for Scottish students.
Similarly, whilst I would have complained whatever the level of fees, charging more than any other UK university is doing more than helping ensure Scottish students can attend.
There are no University fees for students whose normal domicile has been in Scotland. For all such Scottish students there are no fees and this is to continue by decision if the Scottish government. Only English, Welsh and Northern Ireland students are to pay the new fees,
Also, it is important to be correct historically.
Adam Smith was never a student at Edinburgh – he was educated at Glasgow 1737-40 (fees paid by his mother and guardians) and Oxford (Balliol College), fees paid by his Snell Exhibition (£40 per year) 1740-46). He lectured on Rhetoric in the Town of Edinburgh (not the University), post Oxford, 1748-51, and then was appointed Professor at Glasgow (1751-64).
He was awarded his LL.D by Glasgow in 1763 while a Professor. There is no record of his graduating at either Glasgow or Oxford as BA. or AM. It was a condition of the Snell Exhibition that candidates for Balliol had not graduated ‘anywhere’. Apart from his LL.D from Glasgow he did not receive a degree from anywhere else.
While Adam Smith knew, discussed with and socialised with many graduates of and professors of Edinburgh University, including William Robertson, the Principal, he never attended the university nor taught there.
The issue of fees for non-Scottish domiciled UK students is quite separate from claims about Adam Smith.
Where would the fees come from? Do you think the small population of Scotland can possibly fund an education system that will educate the mass youth of both Scotland and England? Are A-levels awarded the same entrance value as Highers? No, so you would have it such that Scottish parents fund a univeristy where there own kids can’t compete on entrance requirements?
The best solution is to ensure that all those kids talented enough get to go to a university they choose for free. As much as I hate it, I do not want to se our universities and our kids crushed under a massive wieght because of decisions made that affect another nation.
Rather than being angry and shouty, come up with a solution that will not leave my Scottish kids without a place at university in their own damn country!
I totally agree. You might say; ” well you would wouldn’t you?”
My (English) daughter has benefited from an Edinburgh education. She did chose Edinburgh on the basis of the course but the cheaper fees did play a part. In addition, in her 4th year, she was treated as a Scottish resident and didn’t pay any fees. So much for the self interest.
But she remained in Scotland, paying council tax and, in September, she will be starting a PhD at Glasgow. Her research (which involves microfinance) may well benefit women in Glasgow.
Edinburgh university’s decision is very short sighted.