THE number of places at universities for Scottish students will be cut to pre-Covid pandemic levels, the Deputy First Minister has said. 

Speaking at the Finance and Public Administration Committee in Holyrood, Shona Robison, who is also Finance Secretary, said there will be 1200 fewer places for Scottish students available in the next academic year.

These places were funded by the Scottish Government during the pandemic using Covid-19 cash, as a result of changes to the examination processes which caused a spike in university attendance.

Robison (below) said continuing to fund the higher number of places is “not sustainable”.

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She added: “We’ve maintained those places for two years without the Covid funding available.

“That spike in places due to Covid is going to have to return to the pre-Covid levels of university places.”

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Alistair Sim, director of Universities Scotland, said the number of places available for Scottish students was still at a record high, but that the £28.5 million cut on teaching grants in the recent Scottish Budget would have an impact on the future of education.

Sim said: “[The cuts] forces rock-and-hard-place choices for the Scottish government; either reduce the number of places at university or further deplete how much public funding spent on the education of every Scottish student.

“The availability of places for Scots is at a historic high but any change to numbers is immediately visible. The other option sits below the surface but exacerbates an already chronic set of pressures facing students, staff and the sustainability of institutions.”

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Robison confirmed the Scottish Government was not reviewing the policy of free university tuition, which students can receive if they live in Scotland for three years before their course begins.

She added that universities in Scotland should have been “more than aware” of the drop in places and known the figure could not be “sustained in the long-term”.