Welcome for EU students and staff

Lochhead writes to EU Ministers on Scotland’s colleges and universities during Brexit uncertainty.

Ministers have set out the welcoming position of Scotland’s further and higher education sector to European capitals.

Higher Education Minister Richard Lochhead has written to EU education ministers to reiterate that Scotland‘s colleges and universities remain open and welcoming to EU students and staff.

Scotland has proportionally more EU students than any other part of the UK and Mr Lochhead reaffirmed that the Scottish Government will pay tuition fees for eligible students from the EU, EEA and Switzerland, starting courses this year or next, for the duration of their courses.

The letter also makes the case for Scottish institutions continuing cross border research and collaboration through Horizon 2020 and other relevant European programmes after Brexit.

The full text of the letter is below.

I am writing to extend my best wishes to your Government and to reiterate the position of the Scottish Government in welcoming our European neighbours to these shores, amidst the uncertainty which Brexit continues to raise.  Scotland has consistently welcomed and recognised the contribution of EU citizens who choose to study, work and live here, both now and beyond the United Kingdom’s expected departure from the EU.

I fully recognise that our membership of the European Union provides significant mutual benefits for all our institutions, both here in Scotland and in your own country and recognising this mutual benefit our position on Brexit is clear; simply, we want to remain.

Since the outcome of the EU referendum in the United Kingdom in June 2016, the Scottish Government has continued to welcome EU citizens to continue to study and work at universities and other research organisations in Scotland. The First Minister has given a clear message to all EU citizens who choose to live in Scotland: “you are welcome here, you contribute to this country’s diversity and richness and we will do everything we can to help you to stay.”

EU students and staff are an essential part of our campus life.  We are determined that they should continue to be able to come to Scotland. We have previously confirmed that we will continue to provide financial support to eligible students from the EU, EEA and Switzerland who commence courses at Scottish institutions in academic years 2019/2020 and 2020/2021, for the duration of their courses.  This guarantee stands even in the event of failure of the UK Government to agree a Withdrawal Agreement. 

Inward migration has made an overwhelmingly positive contribution to Scotland’s higher and further education institutions and research institutes as well as businesses.  It is crucial that EU staff and students can continue to have freedom of movement and protection of the rights that they already have here. We do not agree that EU citizens should have to apply to the Settlement Scheme – the UK Government should immediately guarantee the rights of EU citizens in the UK.

I am pleased to say that Scotland benefits enormously from Erasmus+ with over 2,000 Scottish students taking part in the programme each year, proportionally more than from any other country in the UK.  We believe that Scotland’s interests are best served by remaining a part of the Erasmus+ programme: we have made our position clear to the UK Government, and are urging them to prioritise access to the programme in their planning and negotiations with the European Commission. This is something that our Children and Young Person’s Panel on Europe was keen to impress on us; our children see their future in Europe, and we are resolved to protect this. 

Scottish institutions have been reliable and trusted research and innovation partners in consortia involving EU partner organisations under Horizon 2020.  It is essential that they are able to continue that international collaboration through Horizon 2020, Horizon Europe and other relevant European programmes.   The Scottish Government will seek to continue to maximise Scottish participation in Horizon Europe.

Scotland did not vote to leave the EU and we deeply value the close partnership with you and other European partners: a partnership we continue to press the UK Government to keep.   We will use our network of Scottish Government Europe Hubs and other networks to maintain and strengthen bilateral and multi-lateral links with key European education, research and innovation partners.

In conclusion, I would like to reiterate the importance this Government places on further and higher education, collaboration and research with our neighbours across Europe; and would be grateful if you could share this letter with your further and higher education institutions.  Regardless of the outcome and the terms on which the UK leaves the EU, I do hope that our countries, students and academics can continue to benefit from successful mutual collaboration in the future. 

Richard Lochhead

Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science


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