UK Politics

Tuition fee waiver 'would apply across EU'

State funding for poor students at English universities could have to be made available to all EU citizens, according to draft government plans.

Any proposed discounts or fee waivers would have to be open to all EU students on an equal basis, they say.

Before the crunch tuition fees vote it was suggested poor students could get a year's fees paid for by the government.

A government source said if all EU students could apply, they would have to think very carefully about the idea.

It comes as Scotland's Education Secretary Mike Russell said he wanted to stop students from EU countries outside the UK receiving free tuition in Scotland, an obligation that cost the Scottish government £75m last year.

Deputy PM Nick Clegg and Business Secretary Vince Cable first announced plans for a National Scholarship Programme for English universities - to be worth £150m a year by 2014/15 - shortly before the controversial tuition fees vote in the House of Commons last month.

Draft proposals seen by the BBC say students whose family income qualified them for a full grant would be able to apply.

'By no means finalised'

It adds applicants should come from communities under-represented in higher education and whose educational background indicated they were high achievers.

The details of the National Scholarship Programme will be finalised in the coming weeks but are, for now, unfinished and under discussion. The government has reached no final conclusions.

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said: "The design of the National Scholarship Programme is by no means finalised. Criteria for eligibility is currently being developed through advice from our expert panel, which includes the National Union of Students and UUK."

"The National Scholarship Programme will support bright students from disadvantaged backgrounds to attend university from 2012.

"Likely groups to be supported include disabled students, part-time students, mature-aged students, those who have been eligible for the pupil premium at school, or have received free school meals or student maintenance grants. We are looking actively at ensuring that a wide range of people can participate in the scholarship programme."

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