An analysis by the UK Government's Higher Education Funding Council for England said the rising cost of a university degree in England could create "fee refugees" and force families to move to Scotland or Wales to avoid tuition increases, writes Graeme Paton at the Telegraph.
Parents living close to the borders are among those most likely to relocate to another country to avoid fees of up to £9,000 in 2012, it was claimed. These relocations could potentially create "distortive effects on local economies and housing markets".
The disparity of fees policies operated by the different governments in the UK is alarming. As English students are preparing themselves to pay up to £9,000 a year, those in Scotland are to continue to be given free tuition. This means that a move from England to Scotland could save students as much as £36,000 for a four year degree.
Fees for Welsh students will be fixed at £3,465 and those in Northern Ireland will pay a similar amount. But the HEFCE paper raised the "question of affordability" that is attached to the reforms for devolved administrations. Government's budgets may be stretched as most countries are committed to subsidizing students' tuition even if they study outside their home country.
The paper warns that there "may be issues with families, particularly those close to the borders, seeking to domicile themselves in Wales or Scotland in order to benefit from favorable fee arrangements".
The report adds:
"This could have distortive effects on local economies and housing markets if it occurred with significant numbers."
Bob Osborne, emeritus professor of public policy at Ulster University, said that if a family "was living 15 miles from the Scottish border then you can see how they might try to wangle it". But he doubted there was going to be a "mass exodus of people from Surrey to Glasgow".
The Scottish Executive has already said children whose parents move to Scotland for their careers will be eligible for a free university education. But as a measure to prevent families from seeking to exploit the system they are to carry out lengthy checks on applicants, with the Student Awards Agency for Scotland to decide on the recently moved on a case-by-case basis.