The principal of St Andrews university in Scotland has been condemned for being "out of touch" after claiming the £9,000 some students pay for a degree is "very little."
Professor Louise Richardson told The Herald newspaper: “I think I’m going to say something that is very unpopular - £9,000 a year is very little to pay for a St Andrews education because it’s worth a great deal more."
Louise Richardson with Prince William and Kate Middleton
The principal of Scotland's oldest university, where Kate Middleton and Prince William studied, also said just because students were paying shouldn't mean the university should treat them as customers.
“I don’t think it should [matter], we’re not a market,” Professor Richardson told the Herald.
“I don’t think because some students are paying fees we should start treating them somehow as if they are customers. That’s the marketisation of education and is corrosive. Right now in our classrooms we have kids paying nothing, kids paying £9,000 and international students paying significantly more and we should be treating those differently? I don’t think so. We provide the best education we can provide.”
Although the cap on tuition fees was removed in 2010, Scottish students can still study in Scotland for free. Around 30% of St Andrews student population is international, meaning some who study there will pay over £60,000.
Robin Parker, president of the National Union of Students Scotland said in a statement: "It's a bit rich, coming from the head of a university with such an abysmal record of recruiting students from the poorest backgrounds, that £9000 degrees are in fact a bargain."
Prince William and Kate Middleton visit St Andrews
The royal couple's alma mater which has Scotland's toughest entry requirements was criticised in November for admitting just 14 students from the 20 most deprived Scottish areas in 2011, compared to an overall total of 482 Scottish students.
However, the university said this was because so few young people from these areas are achieving basic university entry grades.
In December a group of students were forced to apologise after dousing themselves in what appeared to be champagne in order to flaunt their wealth.
The "champagning" stunt was intended to get a one-up on other students who had indulged in the "milking" craze, which sees people pouring milk over themselves and posting the pictures and videos online.
The St Andrews students have gone into hiding after their "champagning" stunt
A spokeswoman from Universities Scotland, which represents St Andrews, said in light of Richardson's latest comments: "There is no getting away from the fact that higher education is an expensive business. It costs a lot of money to attract and retain the best staff to keep Scotland at the leading edge of teaching, to innovate within the curriculum and to keep student satisfaction at the highest levels in the UK."