FOUR universities have lost money as a result of hiking tuition fees for non-Scottish students up to £9000.
Since August last year, university chiefs have been allowed to charge students from the rest of the UK up to £36,000 for a four-year degree in Scotland.
But the universities of Aberdeen, Abertay, Queen Margaret and West of Scotland have seen a drop in income from non-Scottish students.
Aberdeen has been the hardest-hit, losing more than £1m.
The SNP hoped the additional charge on students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland would generate cash in order to protect their flagship policy of free education.
Others have gifted nearly half of the extra cash back to students in the form of bursaries.
The figures emerged from a Freedom of Information request submitted by the National Union of Students (NUS) for Scotland.
Aberdeen lost £1.2m, Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh was down £318,000 and Abertay in Dundee lost around £41,000.
The University of the West of Scotland – who has four campuses across the country – only revealed its income was “less than previous years”.
Experts have suggested that in their case profits may have gone up because both universities remain popular with non-Scottish students from particularly wealthy backgrounds.
Robin Parker, president of NUS Scotland, said the figures show tuition fees aren’t “the way to go”.
He said: “There’s now some evidence that we were right to oppose it and clearly some universities aren’t benefiting as much as they thought they would from higher fees, while others could well be benefiting greatly.
“Hopefully this will serve as a timely reminder to politicians of all parties that higher fees and the introduction of a market in education isn’t the way to go.”
The figures also showed that some Scottish universities are spending more than a third of the money generated by income fees on handouts to students – the average spend on bursaries being around 15%.
Heriot-Watt in Edinburgh invested 37% of its fee-generated cash on student support.
But lower contributions were made from institutions such as Stirling, Robert Gordon in Aberdeen, and Strathclyde in Glasgow.
Mr Parker added: “It’s encouraging to see many providing a good proportion of fee income for the poorest students, but this good average is being pulled down by those offering little support.”
But a spokeswoman for Universities Scotland – which represents university principals – admitted since the fees were introduced there has been a “drop in demand” from non-Scottish students.
The spokeswoman said: “The introduction of fees of up to £9000 for rest of UK students came with uncertainties about what the pattern of demand in the first year of the new scheme would be and there may be further volatility in the coming years.
“The few institutions that have witnessed a drop in demand from RUK students in the first year hope to recover these numbers over the long-term and will have no doubt worked hard to market their unique offering to students over the current recruitment cycle.”
In relation to the spend on bursaries, she added: “Scotland’s universities are offering a package of means-tested bursaries that slightly betters that available from universities in England, despite the absence of a regulator.”