PhD students at university: FOI release
- Lifelong Learning and Skills Directorate
- Part of
- Education, Public sector
Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002
1. In each of the last five academic years, how many PhD candidates were supervised by the university since 2018?
2. In each of the last five academic years, how many UK domestic resident PhD candidates were supervised by the university since 2018?
3. What amount of PhD fees are charged by the university for the supervision of international PhD students?
4. What amount of PhD fees are charged by the university for the supervision of home, UK resident PhD students?
5. What Master’s degree fees are charged by the university for tuition and supervision of international masters’ students?
6. What Master’s degree fees are charged by the university for tuition and supervision of home, UK resident students?
Some of the information you have requested is available from Higher Education Statistics Agency. The answers to questions 1 and 2 can be found here. Under section 25(1) of FOISA, we do not have to give you information which is already reasonably accessible to you. If, however, you do not have internet access to obtain this information from the website(s) listed, then please contact me again and I will send you a paper copy.
With regards to questions 3, 4, 5, and 6, while our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance the Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested. However, you may wish to contact the universities of your interest, as they may be able to help locate the requested information. The reasons why we don’t have the information is due to the fact that Universities are autonomous bodies with responsibility for managing their own affairs, and Scottish Ministers cannot therefore intervene in internal matters such as decisions relating to the cost of each degree qualification / tuition fees for international students and those from the rest of the UK. Similarly, fees for courses will differ, as some cost more than others to deliver. This is a formal notice under section 17(1) of FOISA that the Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested.
To respond to your final set of questions, listed below:
- How is it lawful that international university students studying under-graduate and post-graduate degree courses within England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are charged in excess of 100% more in academic fees compared to local (UK resident) university students?
- Given that international university students have been subject to these additional academic fees over decades by the UK universities, presumably, different legal mechanisms / statutory instruments are in place to ensure that the UK universities are not in breach of UK equality laws by discriminating against international students in charging substantially higher academic fees (than UK resident students) for the same academic service?
- How can UK universities meet their equality obligations by charging Chinese, or Middle-Eastern post-graduate students, two or three times more for PhD supervision than their UK resident student peers?
- If accountants, engineers, surveyors, or estate agents cannot legally discriminate in their fee service structures between UK residents and international residents (based in the UK) for professional services provided within the UK, how (legally) can the UK universities discriminate in their academic fee structures against international students?
- Why then the academic fee differentials and how can these fee differentials be justified under UK equality legislation?
- Quite simply, is it discriminatory to charge international university students higher academic fees than resident UK students?
- Under the provisions of the Education (Fees) (Scotland) Regulations 2022, it is lawful to charge certain students fees at a higher level than other students. Institutions are entitled to charge higher fees to students who do not have a relevant connection to Scotland within the meaning of regulation 3 and who are not “excepted students” under schedule 1 of those Regulations.
- Fees for undergraduate courses for those who have a relevant connection to Scotland (or are excepted students) are capped by the Scottish Government at £1,820 for the 2022/23 academic year. The fee charged to students living elsewhere in the UK is currently capped at £9,250. Overseas fees are not regulated by the Scottish Government; they are set by institutions and can be higher depending on the course and institution.
- Universities in Scotland are subject to a range of duties under the Equality Act 2010, including in the provision of services under Part 3 of the Act, and in particular in relation to the admission and treatment of students as an education provider under Part 6 of the Act. In line with this Act, Scottish universities are also covered by the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED), which requires them to, amongst other things, report on mainstreaming the equality duty; publish equality outcomes and report progress; and assess and review policies and practices to ensure they do not unlawfully discriminate against people with protected characteristics.
- In this particular context, you may find it helpful to note the general exception that applies to the requirements in Parts 3 and 6 of the Act under schedule 23, paragraph 1. Where something is done in pursuance of legislation, there is no unlawful discrimination on the basis of a person’s nationality or place of ordinary residence / length of residence in the UK. The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) are responsible for enforcing the Equality Act and PSED.
- The Scottish Funding Council (SFC) is a non-departmental public body that has a role to ensure universities and colleges are complying with the PSED, reducing inequalities and working towards achieving equality. In 2020 the SFC entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the EHRC to support colleges and universities in meeting PSED requirements.
- If you have concerns about the way in which the public sector equality duty is being implemented, or feel that you have been discriminated against, you may wish to contact the Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS): https://www.equalityadvisoryservice.com/. This is a formal notice under section 17(1) of FOISA that the Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested.
The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at http://www.gov.scot/foi-responses.
Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000
The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
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