Threat to Scotland’s Universities from Brexit Uncertainty

brexit-imageAs the Tory leadership circus plays out and the next Prime Minister will be leading the UK out of the EU it is timely to remember that the October 31st deadline is getting ever nearer and nothing has changed.

The UK is still on course to leave the EU perhaps with no deal.

This is also the time of year when we are reminded of our students in Scotland who are about to embark on their degree  courses which almost all take at least 4 years to complete.

Scotland has an excellent international reputation for higher education and many students from Europe take the opportunity to study for a degree at one of our Universities.

The UK Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, has proposed that EU students will be granted ‘leave to remain’ for 3 years to enable them to complete a degree. Except that in Scotland this will not be sufficient time with most Scottish degrees lasting longer than this. In light of the inadequacies of the Javid proposal, Michael Russell, Constitutional Relations Secretary, in the Scottish Government has raised the issue with the UK Home Secretary.

Michael Russell said:

Michael Russell  Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe“It is not clear whether the decision to offer leave for only three years is the result of ignorance about the Scottish system or incompetence, but it is utterly ridiculous that the Home Secretary does not recognise the change required.

“The uncertainty of Brexit – and the end of freedom of movement – continue to be the biggest threat to our university sector. This is not just an issue for big universities like Edinburgh or Glasgow, but for all our universities.

“The University of the Highlands and Islands have reported that the Scottish Association for Marine Science currently have 114 undergraduate students of whom 27 are from the EU and have 15 EU postgraduate research students from countries such as Italy, Germany and Poland.”

It cuts both ways – many Scottish students have benefited enormously by studying in the great European universities. The EU funds the Erasmus+ scheme for studying abroad, volunteering and taking up the opportunity of work experience. UK students will only be able to continue in this scheme until the end of 2020 when the current Erasmus+ ends.



Under EU reciprocal arrangements the Scottish government provides tuition fee (and in some limited cases living-cost) support for eligible EU students and their family members, coming to Scotland to study. Due to various EU treaties, students from the EEA, Switzerland and Turkey may also be entitled to student support in certain circumstances.

The Scottish Government will continue with this arrangement until the start of new entrants to session 2021/2022.

Reporter: Fiona Grahame

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