A group of around 20 students from the University of St Andrews occupied the gardens outside the Principal’s residence at 6am on Tuesday in protest to the introduction of £9,000 a year rest of UK (RUK) fees. The occupation will last for 36 hours, to symbolise the £36,000 debt the university has asked its RUK students to graduate with. Students are demanding an immediate withdrawal of the proposed fees as well as greater transparency and democracy in university decision making. The decision to charge RUK students £36,000, when added to the largest living costs in Scotland, now makes St Andrews the most expensive university to achieve an undergraduate degree in Europe.
One student reflected the wide anger at the decision, saying “It’s a gross hypocrisy that people who benefitted from a free education themselves are increasing fees for other students by 500%. The governments at Westminster and Holyrood should take their share of the blame but the university’s argument that this is financially necessary is dishonest. The cut per RUK student is only £3,323 so raising fees by over £7,000 doesn’t make sense.”
Another student, a second year English student, said “Since the decision to raise tuition fees was made out of term time while students were away, it is of vital importance to let those in charge of the University of St Andrews know that there is a large student opposition to these unnecessary measures. It is also very important to show other students who may feel strongly against these new fees that vocal protest and occupation is a perfectly valid and effective way of making this disagreement felt.”
A fourth year International Relations student told people “I believe that this increase in fees across Scotland is detrimental to higher education. I'm protesting today on University property to promote this view and to promote a future of freely available education for whoever wants it.”
A third year geography student revealed “We want to show the university that just because they have already made the decision to charge £36,000 for a degree it doesn’t mean that the students accept it. Being the most expensive university in Europe is not the legacy we want our university to carry.”
The decision to raise RUK fees at St Andrews followed Edinburgh University also setting its fees at the maximum threshold. A group of around 100 students from across Scotland recently occupied Edinburgh University in protest of this decision.