Higher Education (Widening Access)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 1 February 2024.

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Photo of Kaukab Stewart Kaukab Stewart Scottish National Party

This week, Liz Smith endorsed the reintroduction of back-door tuition fees, which would deter disadvantaged students from going to university. That follows Labour leader Keir Starmer ruling out free tuition under a United Kingdom

Labour Government. Can the First Minister outline what progress the Scottish National Party Scottish Government has made in widening access? Will he reaffirm his commitment to keeping tuition free? [



Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

It is hardly a surprise to hear the Conservatives heckling when we mention free education—[



The Presiding Officer:

Let us hear the First Minister.

The First Minister:

I was absolutely delighted to see the progress that we have made in that regard highlighted this week by the commissioner for fair access: there has been a 45 per cent increase in the number of students from our most deprived communities entering university since 2013-14. It is no wonder that the Conservatives were groaning—they do not like it one single bit.

The commissioner also points out that that increase has not been at the expense of other cohorts of Scottish students, with increases in the number of home students across the board. Unlike Labour and the Conservatives, we are absolutely committed to the principle that access to education should be based on the ability to learn, never on the ability to pay.