British students suffer rising tuition fees but British government and EU forces British taxpayers to give £250 million to fund foreign students.
A new storm over student fees broke out last night as it was revealed that more than £250 million a year of British taxpayers’ cash is blown on university education for students from other EU countries.
The “sickening” bill comes as British youngsters are being warned they will graduate with debts of tens of thousands of pounds when tuition fees treble to help fund cash-strapped colleges.
And even more money could go to European students under draft Government plans to extend state funding for poor students at English universities to all EU citizens.
Any proposed discounts or fee waivers when the new higher fees come in would have to be open to EU students on an equal basis, the plans say.
Senior Conservative MP Philip Davies said: “Given that we already subsidise the EU to the tune of billions of pounds a year, it’s a bit sickening that we then have to subsidise on top of that all the European students who come to study here.
“Most people think the EU gets more than enough money from the UK without putting this icing on the top as well.”
Michael Heaver, Youth Chairman of the UK Independence Party, said: “Surely the UK would benefit more if we could afford to educate our own students better rather than fund EU students.
“Are we not already diverse enough in the UK for this Government or is it that they prefer others to us? They should be focusing on improving our own skills base.’’
In the last full academic year, some 64,255 students from other EU countries enrolled at higher education institutions in England and Wales.
With annual Government funding to subsidise university teaching averaging some £4,000 per student, the total suggests that at least £257million a year of public grant money in England and Wales alone could be going to support the education of young people from other EU countries.
Like UK students, EU undergraduates also have access to British state-backed loans to help pay their tuition fees, which are set to rise to a maximum £9,000 a year next year for students from England. Students from outside Europe pay full fees, often of £10,000 a year or more to cover all costs. Ministers will now face pressure to resist subsidising EU students.
But Brussels rules requiring equal treatment on a range of benefits for EU citizens in EU countries, including Britons overseas, will prove hard to overturn. The Business Department, which oversees universities, said: “The UK and UK universities positively benefit from the participation of overseas students in terms of diversity, enrichment of academic life and research. EU students who study here have to pay for their living costs, contributing to our economy in doing so. Reciprocal arrangements mean UK students who want to study in other EU countries benefit too.”
PROTEST AS COST Of EU LOOPHOLE HITS £75m
THE Scottish government is to protest in Brussels against European laws which require it to pay for EU students taking courses at its universities.
Scottish Education Secretary Mike Russell said the cost of their tuition fees and teaching subsidy had quadrupled in 10 years to £75million a year.
Unlike those from the rest of the UK, Scottish students do not pay tuition fees. Instead Scotland’s government – funded with a block grant out of general UK taxation – pays the money, currently £1,820 a year, to the universities for them.
Students from the rest of Britain who attend Scottish universities have to pay Westminster-set tuition fees of more than £3,000 a year, but those from other EU countries have the same benefits as Scottish students. The number of EU students at Scottish universities has soared by 94 per cent since 2000-01, to 15,930 last year.
Mr Russell called the loophole “no longer tenable”. He added that Scottish universities should not become “a cheap option for students who have to pay to go to university in their home countries”.
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