Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/492/2537
Have Scottish students got free education?
THE SCOTTISH National Party (SNP) has made its bid for popularity amongst students by announcing plans to scrap graduate endowments for Scottish students.
Matt Dobson Socialist Students national organiser
There is no doubt that these announcements will be viewed positively by Scottish students both applying to university and graduating this year. But does this measure equate to free education?
The SNP is feeling the pressure from the unpopularity of New Labour's higher education policy which has left many thousands of graduates with vast debts. Applications to Scottish universities have fallen by 1% over each of the last two years.
The SNP claim to be "delivering a return to free education" but have yet to fulfil their election pledges to replace the system of student loans with means tested grants and cancel debt repayments.
Even so, students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will be asking why the New Labour government can't also scrap fees.
Graduate endowments were introduced in 2001 when the Scottish executive scrapped tuition fees.
Students entering higher education paid just under £2,300 when they graduated. The endowment was used to pay for bursaries for poorer students.
Students from outside Scotland studying in Scottish universities have to pay top-up fees.
The majority of students graduating in Scotland have not been able to pay off their endowment and have been piling it on to debts they have from the student loan company.
The SNP's policies alone cannot alleviate student poverty or guarantee free good quality education.
Scottish students will still have to meet the rising costs of accommodation and other services on campus as they are opened up to the private sector.
The SNP will not be able to protect Scottish students from New Labour's drive towards marketisation and a two-tier higher education system.
How will the SNP fund higher education? And how much control will they have over what is spent?
The SNP will not be immune to Brown's spending squeeze on public services and will come under pressure to implement cuts.
The SNP want to make Scotland the "best place in Europe to do business" promising to cut corporation tax to 20%! This will mean less money in the public purse.
While the SNP's pledge shows that the money is available to fund education without charging endowments or fees, the SNP like all the main parties is fundamentally tied to the interests of big business and therefore cannot guarantee free education.
That is why students in Scotland and throughout the UK must link up with workers to build a mass movement to fight for free education and against privatisation and cuts.
Socialists campaign for a living grant for all students so they can afford to study and meet all the costs of university.
We demand the scrapping of all fees and student debt and fight for free publicly funded quality education at all levels.
In The Socialist 21 June 2007:
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Socialist Party news and analysis
War and terrorism
Socialist students and ISR
Workplace news and analysis
International socialist news