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Scotland Announces Free University Tuition for EU Students After Brexit

The Scottish government has been praised for an announcement on Friday that EU students will still be able to get free tuition after the UK has officially left the EU. 

It makes it the “first government in the UK to make such a commitment,” according to Scotland’s higher education minister, Shirley-Anne Somerville. 

The announcement means that EU students who start their course in the academic year of 2019-2020 — the autumn after the UK exits the EU in March 2019 — still won’t be charged tuition fees. 

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Somerville said the decision sent a “strong message” to EU students that they were “welcome” in Scotland, speaking in front of members of the Scottish parliament (MSPs) at Holyrood. 

The convenor of Universities Scotland, Professor Andrea Nolan, said she is “delighted” at the Scottish government’s response to the higher education sector’s call for clarity. 

“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,” she said

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“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.

Education spokespeople for both Labour and Conservative parties in Scotland also welcomed the move, as an “outstanding” and “important” step in offering assurances to EU students. 

The Scottish government had already pledged free tuition for 2017-8 and 2018-9, but Friday’s announcement extends that commitment for another year. 

“This means that all eligible non-UK EU citizens who come to Scotland to study for an undergraduate higher education qualification in 2019-20 will benefit from free tuition,” added Somerville.

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“This will provide confidence for prospective EU students considering coming to study in Scotland,” she said, “as well as the clarity that our institutions require in order to plan for that academic year.”

Currently, EU students are entitled to free tuition at Scottish universities, which is paid for by the Scottish government. But students from other parts of the UK do still have to pay for their university education, even if they study in Scotland. Students from outside the EU also pay for their studies. 

In the long-term, according to the BBC, many in the higher education sector what to debate over what happens for students after 2019-20.

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