My Lords, Regulation 4 reduces the loan amounts available to English students taking courses at institutions in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. Of course, English students at Scottish universities have to pay fees, while Scottish students and EU students do not. I quite understand the frustration in England at that situation, but I urge caution. As the public spending watchdog reported last year:
“Scotland’s universities face rising costs and funding cuts, and there is a growing gap in how well different institutions can cope”.
That report came before Covid and Brexit, so any move to reduce support for English students intending to study at Scottish universities, however understandable, would be a terrible mistake, especially at this time.
It is not just the financial consequences that I worry about. I also believe that there will be indirect political consequences. Anything that tends to undermine the unity of the United Kingdom, especially among our young people, would ultimately be a self-defeating exercise. I urge the Minister to have regard to the long-term political consequences of such a move before proceeding and to rethink Regulation 4.