Scottish universities will “remain open” to international students and staff despite Brexit uncertainty, according to the Scottish higher education minister Richard Lochhead.
In a letter to his European Union (EU) counterparts, the minister reaffirmed that the Scottish government will pay tuition fees for eligible students from the EU, European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland.
This funding is guaranteed for those starting courses this year or next, and will last for the duration of their courses.
The letter also made the case for Scottish institutions continuing cross border research and collaboration after Brexit, through European programmes such as Horizon 2020.
Students from EU countries are entitled to free tuition at Scottish universities, paid for by the Scottish government, as part of current rules in place while the UK is a member of the EU and Scotland has proportionally more EU students than any other part of the UK.
In his letter, Lochhead stated that “EU students and staff are an essential part of our campus life. We are determined that they should continue to be able to come to Scotland”.
You are welcome here, you contribute to this country’s diversity and richness and we will do everything we can to help you to stay
– Nicola Sturgeon
“The First Minister has given a clear message to all EU citizens who choose to live in Scotland: ‘You are welcome here, you contribute to this country’s diversity and richness and we will do everything we can to help you to stay’.”
He also stated that Scotland benefitted enormously from the Erasmus Programme, with more than 2000 Scottish students taking part every year, suggesting that the country’s interests would be best served by remaining part of the scheme.
Guaranteed funding for EU students in the 2019-20 student cohort was first announced in February 2018, by then higher education minister Shirley-Anne Somerville.
Professor Andrea Nolan, convener of Universities Scotland, said that: “EU students are a core part of many important courses but are also highly-valued educationally, culturally and economically, not just by universities but the communities in which they live.”
The UK is due to leave the EU on October 31st. Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, the two candidates running to be leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister, have said that they would consider leaving without a deal.
Lochhead clarified that: “This guarantee stands even in the event of failure of the UK Government to agree a withdrawal agreement.”
In 2016, Scotland voted by 62% in favour of remaining in the EU. In subsequent negotiations, Scottish politicians including First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and leader of the Scottish National Party Westminster Group Ian Blackford have adopted a pro-Remain stance, calling for a second referendum on Brexit.