UNIVERSITIES in Scotland say UK Government proposals to control the numbers of students which can be admitted from England are unacceptable and a “low blow” to the sector. 

UK ministers are expected to announce plans tomorrow which will amend the student fee loan legislation to limit numbers living in England who can take up a place at a university elsewhere in the UK. 

The UK Government announced the intention to cap university places this month as package of measures aimed at tackling any unfair competition resulting from a drop in the number of international applicants due to the coronavirus crisis.

It is feared the most sought-after institutions could recruit more UK students to offset the drop and leave some universities with far fewer students than expected. 

But Alastair Sim, Director of Universities Scotland, said: “Number controls were a specific solution to address a specific admissions problem in England, that Scotland’s universities had no part in. 

“At no point has it been in any way clear that the UK Government intended to extend controls beyond England. This is a late and low blow.

“The devolved administrations should be removed from this intended legislative change. It is not the role of the UK Government to determine student numbers in Scotland nor should the actions of the UK Government undermine student mobility within all nations of the UK.” 

Earlier this month Scottish universities warned they could lose more than £500 million next year due to the coronavirus crisis.

Sim added: “The UK Government’s package of measures for UK universities in early May was England-only in the financial support it offered but it now seems to be UK-wide when it comes to the controls. This is unacceptable.”

Places for students from the rest of the UK have been uncapped in Scotland as they are fee paying. Last year there were just over 5200 full-time first degree students from England. 

 Scotland’s higher education minister Richard Lochhead tweeted yesterday: “The Scotland Government is resisting this most unwelcome and unwarranted proposal and we share the deep concerns of our higher education sector. The devolved administrations are also standing together on this.” 

A Welsh source is reported to have described the move as “trampling on devolution”. 

The Department for Education said the aim was to bring stability to the higher education sector.