Free university tuition for EU students in Scotland to end

New recruits from bloc will pay same fees as other international learners from September 2021 onwards

July 9, 2020
Scottish parliament
Source: iStock

Scotland’s government has said that it will end free university tuition for European Union students starting courses in the country from September 2021 onwards.

Post-Brexit, maintaining free tuition beyond a transition period in 2020-21 “would significantly increase the risk of any legal challenge”, higher education minister Richard Lochhead told the Scottish Parliament, since EU students would be getting treated differently to classmates from the rest of the world.

EU students starting courses from 2021-22 onwards will pay the same fees as other international students, which are typically significantly higher than the fees paid by students from the rest of the UK – these are a maximum of £9,250 a year at undergraduate level.

Mr Lochhead said that the decision had been taken with a “heavy heart” and that students who had already started their studies, or were due to commence this autumn, would receive free tuition for the duration of their course.

He said that the funding that had previously supported EU students at Scottish universities – worth an estimated £19 million in 2021-22 – could instead be used to expand the number of places available to local students.

“That is the stark reality of Brexit and a painful reminder that our country’s decisions are affected by UK policies that we do not support and did not vote for,” Mr Lochhead said.

The Westminster government has previously announced that EU students will no longer be eligible for home fee status and student loans in England from the 2021-22 academic year.

Also in his statement, Mr Lochhead said that Scottish universities would be able to begin a phased return to on-campus teaching using a blended learning model from 22 July. He said that the government was considering whether an exemption to the 2 metre rule on social distancing could be applied for universities, reducing it to 1 metre, on condition that “agreed mitigations” were in place.

Mr Lochhead also said there were questions over whether the UK would be able to continue to participate in the Erasmus+ student mobility programme post-Brexit, stating that “the signals…point towards a poor outcome for young Scots compared to the advantages previous generations enjoyed”.

Ministers were “still not any clearer” about future UK participation in the EU’s Horizon research funding programmes, Mr Lochhead added.

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Reader's comments (2)

What is meant by “would significantly increase the risk of any legal challenge”,
Presumably a potential legal challenge from a Welsh, NI or English domiciled student asking why the Scottish Government is paying for students from the EU but not for those from the rest of the UK? Until now the Scottish Government was obliged to cover EU student tuition ( couldn't discriminate against other EU citizens) but with the quirk that it remained legal to discriminate against citizens from other parts of its own EU member state I.e from rest of UK..( Hence they paid higher fees ...) It was something of an anomaly. And it also meant that Scottish students were in direct competition with other EU students for a limited number of Scottish Government supported places, so the more EU undergrads, the fewer Scottish undergrads.