19 September 2019

The First Minister must ditch the “managed decline” of Scottish universities and guarantee to maintain the £90 million of funding currently spent on EU students in Scottish universities, regardless of the Brexit outcome, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard has said.

At First Minister’s Questions, Mr Leonard highlighted the “damning verdict on the state of university finance” delivered by an Audit Scotland report this morning.

The report highlights that, while the Government’s budget decreased by five per cent in the three years from 2014/15, university funding decreased by seven per cent.

Universities Scotland is calling for the Scottish Government to increase university funding for teaching and research grants by two per cent in real terms in the next Scottish budget. Mr Leonard challenged Nicola Sturgeon to commit to funding at this level.

The umbrella body has argued that “Government funding for universities is decreasing at a faster rate than the Scottish Government’s budget, suggesting university funding has been de-prioritised.”

Mr Leonard said: “University funding has been cut by more than eleven per cent over the past five years. As a result more than half of our universities are now in deficit.

“So Scotland’s universities have a straightforward request.

They want a two per cent real terms increase in university teaching and research grants in next year’s Scottish budget.”

The Scottish Labour leader added: “£90 million currently funds tuition fees for European Union students.

“And our universities have asked for a simple promise that, whatever happens regarding Brexit - and I am determined that we should remain - that the Scottish Government must promise to keep that £90 million invested in our universities.

“Under the First Minister’s watch, we have funding decreasing, a system declining, because her government is deprioritising higher education.

“Will the First Minister today end that failing policy and give our universities that guarantee? Is it not the very least that our universities and our students deserve?”
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