Scotland still open to EU students, minister insists

The Scottish government will continue to pay tuition fees for eligible students starting their course this year or next

Julia Belgutay

Brexit: Scotland's FE minister Richard Lochhead says colleges welcome students and staff from Europe

Scotland’s minister for higher education, further education and science has written to his peers across the European Union to stress that the country’s colleges and universities remain welcoming to EU students and staff.

Richard Lochhead reaffirmed that the Scottish government will pay tuition fees for eligible students from the EU, EEA and Switzerland who will be starting courses this year or next – and that this commitment will remain in place for the duration of their course.

This means that the current rules in place while the UK is an EU member – under which EU students do not pay tuition fees, just like Scottish students – will continue. Scotland has proportionally more EU students than any other part of the UK.

Background: Brexit: 'We must keep telling EU students and staff they are welcome'

Opinion: How Brexit uncertainty is 'hurting colleges'

More news: Gibb says Education must stay internationalist post-Brexit

'Mutual benefits'

Mr Lochhead said: “I am writing to extend my best wishes to your government and to reiterate the position of the Scottish government in welcoming our European neighbours to these shores, amid the uncertainty that Brexit continues to raise. Scotland has consistently welcomed and recognised the contribution of EU citizens who choose to study, work and live here, both now and beyond the UK's expected departure from the EU.

“I fully recognise that our membership of the European Union provides significant mutual benefits for all our institutions, both here in Scotland and in your own country. And recognising this mutual benefit, our position on Brexit is clear. Simply, we want to remain.”

Mr Lochhead said Scotland’s first minister had given a clear message to all EU citizens who chose 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 added: “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. We have previously confirmed that we will continue to provide financial support to eligible students from the EU, EEA and Switzerland who commence courses at Scottish institutions in academic years 2019-20 and 2020-21, for the duration of their courses. This guarantee stands even in the event of failure of the UK government to agree a withdrawal agreement.”

“Inward migration has made an overwhelmingly positive contribution to Scotland’s higher and further education institutions and research institutes, as well as businesses. It is crucial that EU staff and students can continue to have freedom of movement and protection of the rights that they already have here. We do not agree that EU citizens should have to apply to the settlement scheme – the UK government should immediately guarantee the rights of EU citizens in the UK.”

'Scotland did not vote to leave'

Mr Lochhead said Scotland benefited enormously from Erasmus+, with more than 2,000 Scottish students taking part every year, and he believed the country’s interests were best served by remaining part of that programme.

He continued: “Scotland did not vote to leave the EU and we deeply value the close partnership with you and other European partners: a partnership we continue to press the UK government to keep. We will use our network of Scottish Government Europe Hubs and other networks to maintain and strengthen bilateral and multilateral links with key European education, research and innovation partners.”

“In conclusion, I would like to reiterate the importance this government places on further and higher education, collaboration and research with our neighbours across Europe; and would be grateful if you could share this letter with your further and higher education institutions.  Regardless of the outcome and the terms on which the UK leaves the EU, I do hope that our countries, students and academics can continue to benefit from successful mutual collaboration in the future.”

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Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay is head of FE at Tes

Find me on Twitter @JBelgutay

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