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1. We are very grateful to those who took the time to respond to the consultation - not only those who responded in writing but also others with whom we conducted face to face meetings and telephone conversations. Given the short duration of the consultation period we were particularly pleased with the number of responses received. All of these responses have been taken into account in the production of this report.
2. The GE fee was part of the new student support arrangements for higher education students introduced by the Education (Graduate Endowment and Student Support) (Scotland) Act 2001 and applied from autumn that year. Graduates are not asked to pay the GE fee until 1 April after they have completed their course, although the amount payable is set at the beginning of their degree course. For entrants in academic year 2006-07, the fee would be £2,289 at the time of graduation.
3. Not all students are liable to pay the GE fee. There are a number of exemptions, including lone parents, those who are in receipt of the Disabled Students' Allowance at some point during their course, those who are studying at a UK institution outside Scotland, students who come to study in Scotland from elsewhere in the UK or from non-EU countries overseas, or those who study part-time. Overall, almost 50% of graduates are exempt under these criteria.
4. The next cohort of students who will, under current arrangements, become obliged to pay the GE fee are those who have successfully completed their course on or after 1 April 2007. The regulations made under the 2001 Act will result in those graduates becoming liable to pay on 1 April 2008. Students who successfully complete their course on or after 1 April 2008 next year, become liable to pay the fee on 1 April 2009.
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5. As outlined above the GE fee was introduced by the Education (Graduate Endowment and Student Support) (Scotland) Act 2001 and primary legislation is required to repeal the relevant parts of the Act. Subject to the will of Parliament, we hope that legislation will come into force on 1st April 2008 to remove the obligation to pay from those who successfully completed their course on or after 1 April 2007.
6. The legislation would cover:
· students who graduated in the summer of 2007
· students currently in higher education
· students who entered higher education in autumn 2007
· all subsequent students
7. There are no plans to abolish the GE fee in respect of those who became liable to pay the GE fee in 2005, 2006 and 2007 - they will still be bound by their current legal obligations to pay. Those who have chosen to add the fee to their student loan account will repay in line with the current student loan repayment arrangements i.e. repayment will commence when they reach the income threshold of £15,000. SAAS will also continue to pursue payment from liable graduates in those historic cohorts who have not repaid as yet.
8. The consultation period ran from 13 July to 7 September 2007 and the consultation paper invited respondents to indicate whether they agreed with the principle of abolishing the Graduate Endowment fee (the aper can be viewed at: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2007/07/geabolition)
9. The paper was distributed to stakeholders who broadly fell into the following groups:
· Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and representative bodies
· Student representative bodies
· Local government
· MSPs and MEPs
· Government organisations
· Trade Unions and staff representative bodies
· Equality and diversity groups
10. Organisations were also given the opportunity to attend face to face meetings for discussion with officials and two such meetings were held.
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