Universities hit by Brexit

UK Government urged again to guarantee EU students can complete courses in Scotland.

Concerns around the impact of Brexit on the higher education sector in Scotland have been raised again by Constitutional Relations Secretary Michael Russell.

In the event of a ‘no deal’, the UK Government proposal to enable students to obtain leave to remain for only three years will mean prospective students applying to Scottish universities will have no guarantee they will be able to complete their courses.

A recent response from the Home Secretary suggested students could apply under a different route after three years and referred only to extended courses such as medicine – failing to recognise that nearly all degrees offered by Scottish universities are four year courses.

Additionally, the Home Secretary’s response does not give students in Scotland the certainty over their immigration status that is being offered to those in England – putting students and universities at a disadvantage.

In a letter to the Home Secretary, Mr Russell said:

“Scotland has a world-class higher education sector and a long-standing reputation for being amongst the best in the world. But Brexit is already the biggest risk to the sector, threatening our ability to attract and retain EU staff and students. This damaging policy has many consequences for Scottish institutions, putting them at a competitive disadvantage with regards to undergraduate recruitment.

“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. For example, 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.

“The UK Government is simply ignoring the fact that the majority of undergraduate courses in Scotland last four years, putting Scottish universities at a serious disadvantage when competing to attract EU nationals to study. Action from the UK Government is needed urgently especially when the risk of a ‘no deal’ Brexit is rapidly increasing.”  

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