Legal challenge over Scottish university fees for English fails

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

A landmark legal challenge against enabling Scottish universities to charge English students up to £9,000 a year whilst home students pay nothing was today overturned.

The legal challenge was initiated by two students, who were represented by a Birmingham based practice, Public Interest Lawyers.

The challenge failed before they could even put forward legal arguments.

Part of the reason for its failure was due to the students failing to get legal aid from the Scottish Legal Aid Board due to a legal technicality. Being students, they did not have the sufficient means to sustain a lengthy and probably costly legal battle against the Scottish Government by themselves.

One of the students is 23 year old Liam O’Connor, a politics student at Strathclyde University in Glasgow.

From a statement published on the Herald Scotland website, O’Connor claims that the main point of the issue was not about money, but more about equality. In the statement, he said that he was “simply asking not be discriminated against, and not made to feel like a second-class student who has to pay for the right to higher education because of an accident of birth.”

He goes on to say that the likely costs of continuing legal procedures against the Scottish government could “run into tens of thousands of pounds” if they lost.

He expressed disappointment, saying: “It feels like we have downed our weapons without a shot being fired.”

A spokesman for Public Interest Lawyers echoed his sentiments, saying that “unfortunately, we won’t be able to take the matter further. It’s a great shame.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government responded by saying: “The case was clearly invalid because tuition fee arrangements are based on where you live not nationality,” adding that it was “Westminster which refuses to pay for students who live in England.”

The University of St Andrews currently charges non-Scottish UK students the maximum £9000 a year whilst Scots benefit from free higher education. A legal loophole also means that students from the EU enjoy free education in Scotland.

Samuel Mills, an English first year at St Andrews, said: “It feels unfair that I should have to pay for my education in Scotland while no one else in Europe does.”


  1. I am sure that if the UK authorities allowed Scottish students to study in the UK for free, then the Scottish authorities would allow English, Welsh and Northern Ireland students to study for free in Scotland.

    • The difference is that in the rest of the UK, all UK citizens pay the same fees. English students don’t get free university education in England because Westminster doesn’t need to curry favour with the young to push some trumped up sense of nationalism.

  2. Bad journalism. Your topic sentence is totally wrong. The case was not OVERTURNED. More care needed as people rely on accuracy when skim reading.


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