Scottish Government “underfunding” of universities has left the sector increasingly dependent on cash from foreign students, it has been claimed.
Figures obtained by the Scottish Conservatives showed the number of new students coming to Scotland to start their degrees has trebled since the SNP came to power.
In 2021-22 there were 18,280 first time undergraduate international students who came to Scotland from outside of the European Union – with this total up from 6,000 in 2007-08.
The Tories contrasted this 205% increase with the 60% growth in the number of new Scottish students starting university here over the same period.
A record 33,880 Scottish domiciled students started their first, full-time degree course at a Scottish university in 2021-22 – with this total up 595 from the previous year.
But the Tories said universities were being “forced to turn away talented homegrown students” because of the cap on funded places for Scottish students.
Conservative education spokesman Liam Kerr said: “The SNP’s unacceptable underfunding of Scottish higher education means that our universities are becoming ever more dependent on tuition fees from international students.
“While it’s welcome that so many young people from across the globe choose to study in Scotland, our universities’ reliance on international fees is having an unfair impact on young Scots.
“Universities have made it clear that the SNP’s arbitrary cap on the number of places offered to Scots each year means that they are forced to turn away talented homegrown students.”
Mr Kerr demanded the Government “urgently listen to the Scottish Conservatives’ longstanding calls to lift this stringent cap so that more homegrown students can attend universities in their own country”.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “International students make a significant contribution to our society, culture and economy. These students add to the diversity of our communities, enrich the learning experience and support local businesses and jobs.
“The number of Scottish-domiciled full-time first-degree entrants has increased by over 31% since 2006-07.
“We have also seen a record number of Scottish students from deprived areas enrolling in university for the first time, with a recent report from the Commissioner for Fair Access making clear that Scotland continues to set the pace in the UK for fair access to higher education.”
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