Auld Reekie politics

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

I've written before about the odd attitude of the Scottish government when it comes to higher education: its policy of zero fees and capped numbers for Scotland-domiciled students at Scottish universities, leads to unintended consequences.  In this case the difficulty of talented students from middle class homes getting a place at a top institution.

The case of the University of Edinburgh was raised last week in The Times.  Alex Massie wrote:

"Last summer, The Times revealed that every place allotted to Scottish applicants wishing to study law at Edinburgh University — a flagship course at one of the country’s leading universities — was given to students applying from deprived areas or schools deemed disadvantaged.

Almost 400 young people living in the poorest 20 per cent of postcodes applied to read law at Edinburgh and 168 of these pupils won places. By contrast, 555 children living in the wealthiest 60 per cent of Scottish postcodes applied and not a single one of them was granted a place.

For every Scottish student enrolled, a university such as Edinburgh receives £1,820 a year from the Scottish government. Undergraduates from other parts of the UK are charged £9,250 while those from overseas must pay £23,100 for most arts courses, ... .  So it is not exactly a surprise that Scottish-domiciled undergraduates are less attractive than applicants from the rest of the UK or the rest of the world. That explains why Scottish undergraduates are now a minority at the country’s four ancient universities. ... .

Nevertheless, because the Scottish government caps the number of places it funds, Scottish applicants are less likely to attend the country’s most prestigious universities. This is, at least in part, an unintended consequence of the decision to abolish fees.  That is how you create a system in which, this year, just 70 of the 204 undergraduates admitted to read mathematics at Edinburgh are Scottish-domiciled. For English literature, just 23 of the 113 places went to applicants from Scotland."

Massie concludes his article:

"Then again, the trouble with unintended consequences. and their close cousin, perverse incentives, is that these are rarely foreseen by those charged with considering them and, once seen, they are too readily dismissed as being of no great account."

Yet all those who support the nationalist government seem content with all this.  Such a parcel of rogues in a nation.


I should add, perhaps, that not everyone in a poor postcode will be from a poor family, and that not everyone from a wealthy postcode will be wealthy.  It's such a crude differentiation.

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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