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Higher education and the referendum on Scottish independence

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    Rights statement: © This is the accepted version of the following article: Riddell, S., Minty, S., Weedon, E., & Hunter Blackburn, L. (2015). Higher Education and the Referendum on Scottish Independence. Political Quarterly. 10.1111/1467-923X.12164, which has been published in final form at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1467-923X.12164/abstract

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)240-248
JournalPolitical Quarterly
Issue number2
Early online date22 Apr 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015


During the course of the referendum campaign, the Scottish Government argued that free tuition for Scottish and EU students symbolised Scotland’s preference for universal services and was intrinsically fairer than the ‘marketised’ systems operating in the rest of the UK. Invoking principles of both social justice and pragmatism, three distinct critiques of the Scottish Government’s higher education policy were mounted and adopted by different policy actors for different political purposes. Following a discussion of these arguments, the paper concludes that a more nuanced discussion of higher education policy in Scotland is required, focussing not just on the absence of tuition fees, but also on the distribution of debt and allocation of funds across the entire education system. We also note that the focus on tuition fees policy suggests that higher education systems across the UK are set on a process of divergence, whereas there are also strong pressures towards policy convergence in areas such as research policy and internationalisation.

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