In a bid to send a more “welcoming” message to prospective students, Shirley-Anne Somerville told members of the Scottish Parliament that students from EU countries who start their course in the academic year 2019-20 will not be charged tuition fees.
“EU students are a core part of many important courses but are also highly valued educationally, culturally and economically”
“Since the EU referendum, we have been clear that we want students from the EU to continue to see Scotland as a place they wish to study, place to live and a place they can call home,” Somerville said in a statement.
“All eligible non-UK EU citizens who come to Scotland to study an undergraduate higher education qualification in 2019/20 will benefit from free tuition.
“This will provide confidence for prospective EU students considering coming to Scotland, as well as the clarity that our institutions require in order to plan for that academic year.”
Opposition party politicians also welcomed the move. Liz Smith, education spokesperson for the Scottish Conservatives said it is important to send a strong message that Scotland is a “good place to be”.
“I think all MSPs are aware of the outstanding contribution EU students and staff make to our universities,” she added.
Many universities across the UK have said they have already seen a drop-off in applicants since the referendum, with the latest figures from UCAS revealing the number of EU students accepting offers to study in Scotland fell by 10% last year.
Convener of Universities Scotland Andrea Nolan said the news was extremely welcome.
“We are delighted that the Scottish Government has responded to the sector’s call for clarity on this position and they have done so in a timely fashion.”
“Today’s announcement gives some much-needed clarity and assurance to universities but most importantly demonstrates to EU students that they continue to be welcome in Scotland.
“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,” she added.
In January 2018, Nolan called for a more student-friendly immigration bill, saying without one, “Scotland would lose out” after Brexit.