Neil Hudson is a Veterinary Surgeon and Senior Lecturer and former Admissions Tutor. He was the Conservative candidate in Edinburgh South in 2010 and Newcastle North in 2005.
As a University Senior Lecturer and having been an Admissions Tutor, I am very aware not only of the pressures faced by our young people trying to get into university, but also of the difficulties faced by universities and colleges trying to match the best students to the limited number of places on their courses.
The challenges facing the sector are hugely complex, which is why the debate that rages across the UK about its future desperately needs a dose of realism. We need to make sure that our Higher Education sector across the whole UK remains at the forefront of global excellence.
Equally, we need to ensure that the prospects are bright for both students and staff in our institutions. It is vital that any person, young or old, who has the potential and ability to go to university should be able and encouraged to do so with no barriers. This should be done on merit and potential and not on the basis of ability to pay.
The decision to increase tuition fees in England has been painful but, unfortunately, necessary. Before Labour opponents jump in too quickly, it is important to point out that it was the Labour Party that first introduced tuition fees and instituted the Browne Review.
The situation north of the border in Scotland is equally complex and it has been left to the Conservatives, alone amongst the Scottish parties, to bravely and realistically face up to the challenge of how to bridge the gap in funding that will now exist between Scotland and England. University Principals are crying out for a realistic solution to this and are making it painfully obvious that the policies pursued variously by the SNP, Labour and the Lib Dems are unsustainable and will leave institutions in Scotland at a real disadvantage.