Scotland politics

Scots funding guarantee for EU students extended by a year

University Image copyright PA

Students from other EU countries who start courses in Scotland next year will still get free tuition, the Scottish government has announced.

Students had sought reassurances in the aftermath of the Brexit vote.

The government previously guaranteed funding on courses starting in 2017/18, and a further year has now been added.

Education Secretary John Swinney said students "rightly have concerns", and said he was "delighted" to give them reassurance.

EU students are entitled to free university tuition on the same terms as Scots.

It is not yet clear how this will be affected in the longer term by Brexit, but the government has moved to provide guarantees to students starting courses in the interim.

Mr Swinney made the announcement, extending the guarantee to courses starting in the 2018/19 academic year, during a visit to the University of Dundee.

He said it was important to reassure students who will be in the middle of their courses as the UK leaves the EU.

Image caption John Swinney announced the guarantee in a visit to the University of Dundee

He said: "I am proud that Scotland is a destination of choice for EU students and I am delighted to give them further reassurance.

"EU students will rightly have concerns about any change in their status half way through a course. These students deserve certainty and knowing that their free tuition is in place for the entirety of their course is important."

The move affects nationals of other EU countries, including the Republic of Ireland, who plan to study for the whole of their degree at a Scottish university - not exchange students who come to Scotland for a few months as part of their course.

Typically a student who starts next year would graduate in 2022 - the expectation is that Britain will leave the EU in 2019.

'Huge importance'

Universities Scotland director Alastair Sim said the move was "both welcoming and assuring for then sector", adding: "EU students are of huge importance to Scotland and its universities: educationally, culturally, economically and as a core part of many important courses.

"It's right that the Scottish government have given clarity for students who will be thinking about choosing Scotland to learn, study and contribute."

The Scottish Conservatives also welcomed the move. Education spokeswoman Liz Smith said: "Students - and indeed staff - from the EU make a very significant contribution to our higher and further education institutions.

"While everyone recognises the complexities of the Brexit negotiations, I hope the UK government will soon be in a position to give similar guarantees."

Labour's education spokesman Iain Gray added: "EU students make a valuable contribution to Scotland's education system, economy and cultural life. The fact that the Tories' reckless Brexit gamble puts this at risk in the first place is shameful."

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