The UK government has announced that the country’s research councils will continue to fund postgraduate students from the European Union whose courses start in the next academic year.
The funding will continue for the duration of their course even if the UK leaves the EU during this time, it said.
Philip Nelson, chair of Research Councils UK (RCUK), said that universities can now “feel confident” recruiting postgraduates for the next academic year.
Seven research councils fund about 19,000 PhD students across the UK in the arts and humanities, social sciences, engineering and physical sciences, and the medical and life sciences.
Universities, which have already started the recruitment cycle for 2017-18, have been lobbying for more clarity on funding for undergraduates and postgraduates since the UK voted to leave the EU in June.
The announcement follows on from the Department for Education saying in October that EU nationals applying for undergraduate and master’s courses beginning in 2017-18 would still be eligible for student loans and grants.
The universities and science minister, Jo Johnson, said: “The UK is a world leader in science and research, and a key part of that is attracting the brightest talent from across the world to contribute to the pioneering work being done in our universities and research centres.
“Today’s clarification on postgraduate support for EU students starting courses in 2017-18 is further evidence of our commitment to ensuring the UK remains at the forefront of global science.”
Professor Nelson added: “Supporting the most talented students at the start of their research career is something which RCUK takes very seriously. We are very pleased that both students and higher education institutions can now feel confident in moving ahead with recruitment for the next academic year.”
He said that RCUK would continue working with the government to “provide as much clarity and assurance for the future as possible”.