Rise of RUK students increases Scottish universities’ income

By Émer O’Toole, News Editor

The number of fee-paying students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland welcomed by Scottish universities has increased significantly, according to new figures.

Recent figures show that student numbers from the rest of the UK (rUK) increased by over 10 per cent between 2013 and 2014.

The statistics from UCAS reveal that 5870 rUK students have got into Scottish universities so far, as opposed to 5300 last year- with 4760 from England after an increase of almost 15 per cent.

The increase has no effect on the number of Scottish students accepted because they apply to university through a separate process.

However, the ability to attract rUK students has a significant impact on university funding since they pay fees of up to £9000 a year and places are uncapped.

Alistair Sim, director of Universities Scotland, which represents university principals, was pleased with the increase, which comes after a recruitment drive south of the border for many universities.

He said: “This demonstrates that Scotland’s offer of a world class higher education, the highest rates of student satisfaction and best rates of graduate employment in the UK has a strong cross-border appeal.

“It is important to state that the increase in rUK students studying in Scottish universities does not come at the expense of opportunities for Scottish-domiciled students.”

Scottish universities have put the spotlight on direct marketing and advertising this year and some institutions have spent more time communicating with potential applicants through the process.

Institutions have offered more places to rUK students through the clearing system- which matches vacancies with prospective students.

Gordon Maloney, president of NUS Scotland, was also pleased with the figures, but pointed out that universities must ensure places are going to students from different social backgrounds.

He said: “It is positive to see more entrants from the rest of the UK, but this increase doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re protecting, or improving, access for the poorest students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

“Fair access doesn’t stop at the border, and we need to see minimum standards, protections and safeguards, particularly around bursaries, for these students.

“We’ve said before that we wouldn’t want to see students from the rest of the UK being taken by Scottish universities simply because of the £9,000 price tag attached to them.”

The rise is a particular advantage as statistics from last year showed that more than half of Scottish universities struggled to attract students from rUK.

Strathclyde was one of the universities that saw a decrease- as well as Abertay, Dundee, Edinburgh Napier, Glasgow, Queen Margaret, the Royal Conservatoire and University of the Highlands and Islands.

Strathclyde welcomes students from more than 100 countries around the world and the number of students from the rest of the UK is now increasing in line with Scotland-wide figures.

Collectively, numbers of rUK applicants going to Scottish universities rose by five per cent from 2011/12 to 2012/13, with Edinburgh University being responsible for most of the increase.

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