Support for students after EU exit

Funding available to 'UK Returners' for seven years.

Tuition fee and living cost support will continue to be available to eligible UK nationals returning to study in Scotland from the EU, European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland for seven years after EU exit.

The Scottish Government has confirmed that it will protect the rights of UK nationals returning to Scotland. ‘UK Returners’ will retain the right to access tuition fee and living-cost support on the same basis as they have under EU rules for this extended period. This includes eligibility for further and higher education student support, and access to apprenticeships.

Minister for Higher Education Richard Lochhead said:

“This guarantee will provide a level of reassurance and stability to UK nationals who may be considering returning to Scotland to study in the near future.

“Those who left the UK to live in the EU, EEA and Switzerland will have done so on the understanding that under EU rules they would retain the same rights to access education as citizens who remained in the UK.

“We are committed to protecting the rights of such people to access educational support and today’s announcement will deliver that protection.”


Eligible UK nationals currently residing in the EU, EEA and Switzerland who were resident in Scotland before they went to live abroad are assessed as ‘home fee’ students and can access tuition fee and living cost support.

Eligible UK nationals who lived elsewhere in the UK before moving to the EU, EEA or Switzerland can access tuition fee support in Scotland if they choose to study here.

Because of EU rules on free movement of people, these UK returners do not have to meet a three-year residency requirement - which is necessary for those who come back to the UK from living outside of the EU, EEA and Switzerland.

Seven years after EU exit would enable UK nationals who are currently in secondary education within the EU, EEA or Switzerland to complete their schooling before returning to Scotland to study at college or university level. 

In most EEA member states, UK nationals who decide to stay where they are after seven years’ residency, rather than return to the UK, would generally qualify for the same access to services - including student support and eligibility for home fee status - as nationals in that country.

In the event of a ‘no deal’ EU exit, the seven-year period would begin on exit day. If the UK leaves the EU with a deal, that period will commence at the end of the Implementation Period.

In the event of a deal, the Scottish Government will remain obliged under EU law to ensure EU citizens are not discriminated against on the basis of their nationality in the provision of higher education. This means that EU nationals and UK nationals living in the EU will be charged the same rate of tuition fees and provided with the same level of student support as Scottish-domiciled students until the end of any Implementation Period.

According to the ONS report ‘Living abroad: British residents living in the EU: April 2018’.

  • 784,900 British citizens were living in the EU, excluding the UK and Ireland, on January 1 2017 (this does not include EEA and Switzerland).
  • Of that number, 59,600 were aged under 15.


Media enquiries

Back to top