Dundee Education Newspaper Letters Politics

Scotland’s Poor Must not be Left Behind by Scotland’s Universities.



The following letter appeared as the lead letter in todays Courier under this headline – “Scotland’s Poor Must not be Left Behind”. It was in response to this article about Sir Pete Downes earlier – Principal warns of Brexit Brain Drain and also This

Sir, – I have great sympathy with Professor Sir Pete Downes, principal of Dundee University, in his concerns about the impact of Brexit and I share his desire to see many foreign nationals at both Dundee and Abertay Universities.

They enrich our city and my church, for one, would be poorer without them.

However, I think he is unwise to allow his political prejudices about the EU to influence his doom-and-gloom prognosis for the university.

I realise Dundee University receives a great deal of finance from the EU but the possibility of this being removed should not cause panic.

Sir Pete campaigned against Brexit. He should not be continuing that campaign but seeking to get the best deal possible for the university.

Telling his staff that Brexit means foreigners are not welcome will result in foreign staff and students feeling as if they are not welcome.

As someone who is involved with inter-national students I want to say foreigners are even more welcome in Dundee. We need them.

It’s good that Dundee University has 1,000 students from other EU countries and I agree we should campaign to see as many as possible continue to come.

However, universities need to remember they are not just corporate companies selling educational products.

I wish that there would be as much concern and passion to see 1,000 students from Scotland’s housing schemes and from the poorer countries of the world.

We need to see the same concern for the young people who come from the housing schemes of Dundee and Perth and the slums of Nairobi and Aleppo, as for those who come from the suburbs of Paris and Berlin.

David A. Robertson,
St Peter’s Free Church,

This whole episode illustrates some of the main issues with the EU.  Sir Peter is a strong supporter of the EU because his university gets a great deal of funding from the EU.  The EU is great at funding media, political, arts and educational establishments.  There is of course a quid pro quo – it is precisely these who were full on in their support of the EU. There were some Universities who even told their students how to vote.

Some may say, well that’s the real world and who can blame them?  They are after all just defending their corner.  I think there are several things wrong.  Firstly they portray their defence of the EU as being altruistic and all about the good of humanity – not just defending their share of the pot.  I’m sure there are good motives in there as well but lets not pretend that this is just about internationalism and goodwill for the whole of humanity!

But you might say – isn’t it great that the EU pays so much for British Universities?  No.  Its not.  Because it’s not the EU that pays – its us.  The British taxpayer.  Imagine I took £10 from you and then gave you £5 back.  Would you expect me to be grateful to you?  To be beholden to you and fearful of not having your patronage?   It is like that with the EU.  The trouble is that those in power, the elites in this country, are those who primarily benefit from the EU spending our money in this way.   But all of us pay for it.

I don’t think the EU should be handing out largesse, which we pay for.  It would be much better if the Scottish government raised and spent our taxes on Scottish education and universities.  Then at least we the electorate could have some say.   Do we want our Universities to be run as corporate entities, reliant on EU grants and wealthy benefactors?   Do we think that the Principal of Dundee University should be paid £100,000 plus more (with a salary of £260,000) than the Prime Minister of the UK (£150,000) or the First Minister of Scotland (£149,000)?  Does it really take more to run a University than a country?

And there is another elephant in the room that is never mentioned.  EU students are paid for by Scottish taxpayers.  They don’t pay fees (although English and Irish ones do!).  We pay them.  If this stopped we would save £93 million and raise up to £120 million from fees. See this article in the Courier   The fact is that £27 million of public money is spent on free tuition every year to an increasing number of EU students. In the past nine years the number has grown from 6,738 to 13,312 in 9 years. Meanwhile Universities have strict caps on the number of Scottish students they can accept.   The promise to continue to fund EU students at Scottish Universities may be a worthy one, and certainly got a large round of applause at the SNP conference.  I wonder however how many of those applauding realised that this largesse and virtue signalling comes at a cost – a cost which will largely be felt by poorer Scottish students and those of us faced with a declining education system.

I don’t think this is what education should be for.  It should not be a political football.  It should not be about the political elites taking tax payers money and using it just to fund their own ideologies.  Education should be for all.   If the Scottish government really wants us to be internationalist then can we look much more at developing our Universities as centres of excellence which cater for the poor from Niddrie (Edinburgh), Castlemilk (Glasgow), Charleston (Dundee) and the Ferry (Inverness) as well as those from Aleppo, Nairobi, Kuala Lumpur and other non-European as well as European countries.  Whilst I accept that educational establishments have to be run in a business like manner, I don’t accept that they should be primarily businesses who are selling education.   Maybe I’m too much of an idealist in thinking that education should be for educations sake.  But I would rather be that kind of idealist than defending a privileged system which takes from the poor in order to educate the rich.

Lets have more international students – not less.  But let them be from all over the world and please lets not fund EU students at the expense of the poor in Scotland.




  1. “I don’t think this is what education should be for. It should not be a political football. It should not be about the political elites taking tax payers money and using it just to fund their own ideologies.” AND “Maybe I’m too much of an idealist in thinking that education should be for educations sake.”

    What about a religious football and the religious elite like your good self? I can agree that education is about education but prayers on the curriculum is not education. Indoctrination maybe.

    But lets look at some of your points:

    “lets not pretend that this is just about internationalism and goodwill for the whole of humanity”

    These are some of the good things that the EU tries to do. Develop cross border understanding and ideas etc. So if the EU is not to be the body that does this, what would you replace it with? Would you replace it? Do you think that its a bad thing?

    “But all of us pay for it.”

    True. But as taxpayers we all pay for things we don’t want or benefit from. Our taxes are not hypothecated. Regardless of whatever government is in control this will happen.

    “the elites in this country, are those who primarily benefit from the EU spending our money in this way.”

    But you lie about the beneficiaries David. I know you know about some of the groups that were funded. You said I was scaremongering on my Facebook page when I mentioned one of them in Fife. It was not a university, liberal arts group or anything like that. It was a group that was based in the heart of one of Fifes most deprived areas. Who will fund it now? €1bn in funding to Scotland will be lost and so far no plans have been made to replace it. And that isnt the university funds – €3/4bn approx. Also, as an aside, your church is 18 miles away from a group of food manufacturers whose product is protected internationally. Guess that was a bad thing to fund as well?

    “Imagine I took £10 from you and then gave you £5 back. Would you expect me to be grateful to you?”

    Depends what you were doing with the other £5 to be honest.

    You know I am not too far away from some of your thoughts on university access and funding. Pretty sure I wrote a letter to you about that once. The SNP need to do more on better college places and more poorer students going to university. And to be fair, I know that there are unis who reach out to schools in Niddrie (Edinburgh Uni & Napier), Charleston (both Abertay & Dundee) and Castlemilk (Strathclyde and GCU). Dont know about Inverness. And more needs to be done as a lot of outreach is focussed on the professions/hard to access courses. Also, have you done the demographic work to be sure that your snide comment about the social class of EU students is accurate? The elitist (in the true sense of the word) French universities are very very hard to get into and the rest are very variable. Hence the popularity amongst ordinary French students of UK universities. The quality is better and thats why we get students from the banlieues.

    But we wouldnt get very far with trying to get students from Aleppo, Nairobi and Kuala Lumpur. Brexit means Brexit and that means getting immigration down and that means fewer foreign students. Thats what Theresa May told the Indian government a few weeks ago (which is a bit of shame for those Indians in the UK that campaigned for Brexit to stop EU migration to get more nonEU migration). Its what she would tell Scottish universities as well.

    Brexit won though so you should be happy. Soon EU students will be international students and have to pay their own way. Admittedly, Scottish students in EU unis will also have to do the same which will be pricey (whilst not as many Scots go to EU as EU students come here it does happen and will be made much more expensive with Brexit so fewer Scots will do it – yay for the inward looking xenophobes I suppose).

    The EU funded a lot of stuff in Scotland and yes, it was UK money that was paid in and then paid out. I do wonder what is going to replace it though. Because at the moment the only Brexit virtue signalling has been to reduce immigration and raise questions about foreigners working in this country. Nothing on helping the poorest in society. But Brexit was never really about that yet thats what the EU did actually do here.

    1. Douglas – again so much! You would make life a lot easier for yourself if you accurately reflected the arguments of those you disagree with and didn’t just make them up!

      Religion is a key part of education. YOu think it isn’t. Fine. Have your humanist atheistic schools and we will have our Christian ones….lets see who provides the better education! You wouldn’t after all deny us that freedom?

      The EU is not internationalist. It just exchanges national borders for EU ones. It is possible to be internationalist without the EU!

      I did not ‘lie about the beneficiaries’….note the word ‘primarily’. But why do you think that Eurocrats in Brussells are a) better and b) more worthy to distribute our taxes?

      Yes – I know how the Universities work and no they are dreadful at helping working class students. As is the Scottish government which puts a cap on Scottish students but offers to pay for as many EU students as want to come!

      Have you ‘fact checked’ your claim about French students coming from the Banlieus? Basically only those students who can afford to live here (ie. they have the means to pay for accomodation and other living costs) can live here. Its not the poor. But maybe you have other information?

      Interesting that you think students have to pay their way. Do you think that English and Irish students should not have to pay fees in the same way as EU students? Is this discrimination fair?

      If you think that the EU is about helping the poor then the fantasy is in deeper than I thought….why not ask the poor and young of Greece, Italy and Spain as to how the EU is doing in helping the poor!

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