The Scottish government announced plans for further and higher education this week, including the decision to end free tuition for EU students from the 2021-2022 academic year onwards.
Before Brexit, EU students in Scotland had been entitled to the same tuition fees as ‘home’ students under EU law.
Once the UK has officially left the EU, Scotland is no longer required to offer EU students free tuition and will not continue to do so as this would ‘significantly increase the risk of any legal challenge’.
EU students currently studying in Scotland (as well as those starting in September 2020) will be able to finish their degrees without paying tuition, but in following years EU students will face the same fees as all other international students, up to £30,000 a year depending on their course.
The plan assures that any resources freed up by this change will remain in the higher and further education sector, with the intention of improving access for Scottish students as well as working to establish scholarships for EU and international students.
The plan also stated that if Scotland were to re-join the EU at some point in the future, the university fee arrangement would be reinstated.
The arrangement for Irish students has yet to be confirmed.
Commenting on the statement, Higher Education Minister Richard Lochhead acknowledged the enormity of the impact that Covid-19 has had on university staff and students, as well as their importance in Scotland’s economy.
He reiterated the sentiment that the decision had been made due to Scotland being “forced out of the EU” against their wishes, and described it as a “…a painful reminder that [Scotland’s] decisions are affected by UK policies that we do not support and did not vote for”.
He noted that although the decision to end funding for EU students was a difficult one, there remained a ‘silver lining’ as this funding would remain in the sector and hopefully allow more Scottish students to take up university places over the next few years.
He stated that the government remained committed to free higher education for those living in Scotland.
However, Lindsay Paterson, Professor of Education Policy at the University of Edinburgh, has warned that free tuition for Scottish students may have to end as a result of the Covid-19 crisis in order to fill a ‘£500 million black hole’.
“…the only solution is to increase the universities’ income from Scottish students.” She explained.
NUS Scotland President Matt Crilly described the announcement that funding for EU students was ending as “bitterly disappointing”.
He did, however, welcome the government’s decision to keep this funding within the higher education sector.
Image: Yanni Koutsomitis via Flickr