The silence has been deafening. Since the major Scottish political parties all came into line behind the policy of keeping Scotland tuition-fee free two weeks ago, I have not heard one positive comment from any of Scotland’s university principals. Why aren’t they celebrating the fact that Scotland has decided to make a decisive break with the creeping privatisation of higher education that is afflicting England? They have been behaving like a sectional special interest group, truculent in lobbying for their own policies, peevish and negative when they don’t get their way.
They need to remember that they are public institutions and that they are there to serve the Scottish people, not their own balance sheets.
What have they got to complain about? The Scottish government has given an unequivocal commitment to financing Scottish universities. “Any funding gap [with fee paying universities] will be closed” . Where else in the public sector is there such a commitment? Only the NHS. Universities should count themselves lucky that they are receiving a record of £1.2 billion from the public purse. That places on them an obligation to accept with good grace the wishes of the Scottish public that higher education should remain free.