EU exit: action plan for further and higher education

Our latest understanding of what Brexit would mean for Scotland's further and higher education sectors, and what we as a responsible government are doing to mitigate these risks.

Key Threats and Actions

Brexit brings unwelcome uncertainty to the many EU citizens working in our colleges and universities

  • The Scottish Government is keen for EU nationals to continue to study and work at colleges, universities, and other research organisations in Scotland. We will continue to encourage them to do so.
  • We will keep making the case to the UK Government for continued freedom of movement and protection of the rights of EU citizens already in Scotland.
  • Our Colleges and Universities are offering support to their students and staff by providing up-to-date information and having regular engagement events.

Brexit may mean fewer EU students and researchers will come to Scotland

  • EU students and staff are an essential part of our campus life, and we are determined for them to continue coming to Scotland.
  • We have previously confirmed that we will support eligible EU students commencing courses in academic year 2019/2020 for the duration of their courses.
  • When the details of what the UK’s future status and relationship with the EU are clear, we will consider whether this should be extended to 2020/2021.
  • We are in discussion with the further and higher education sectors as to support for EU students beyond this period. Decisions related to funding after Brexit will be part of future budget considerations.
  • We continue to press the UK Government to take action in clarifying its future immigration plans. Inward migration has made an overwhelmingly positive contribution to Scotland’s further and higher education institutions, and it is crucial that EU staff and students continue to come to Scotland to live, study and work here and contribute to Scotland’s cultural diversity and excellence in research and teaching.
  • We are in discussion with the UK Government on the Common Travel Area and how it relates to Irish citizens in Scotland and also for Scottish students and staff going to Ireland in the event of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
  • We are also considering the policy position for UK citizens in Gibraltar, and their access to student support.
  • Further considerations are also underway on the Portability Pilot which to date has supported Scottish domiciled students to study at selected Higher Education institutions in the EU.
  • We are working with the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS) and the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) to ensure that their websites include helpful information on Brexit for both staff and students. The SAAS website includes information and guidance for students affected which is being updated regularly. A link to this site and others is at the end of this document.

We need to protect Scottish students and researchers currently in Europe

  • University and college staff that are UK citizens living, studying and/or working in other EU countries face great uncertainty about their future.
  • We continue to call on the UK Government to even do more to support those UK citizens.
  • We are working to consider longer term student support arrangements for eligible UK citizens residing in the EU, EEA and Switzerland post-Brexit, who may seek to return to the UK in the future to take up study.
  • We are seeking clarity from the UK Government on what contingency measures are being put in place for researchers in EU countries in case they are unable to stay there due to Brexit.

Brexit could affect the renowned Erasmus+ Programme

  • Scotland benefits enormously from Erasmus+: thousands of Scottish students take 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 in the 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 EU.
  • We are also working to ensure that any UK-wide value for money analysis of the programme properly captures the views of all nations in the UK, and accurately reflects the benefits the programme provides.

Brexit could affect our participation in international research and innovation collaborations

  • Scottish institutions are highly successful at winning competitive EU research and innovation funding, and it is essential that they continue to be able to continue international collaboration through the Horizon and other relevant European programmes.
  • We support the future association of the UK with Horizon Europe and are asking the UK Government to involve the Devolved Administrations in the relevant value for
    money analysis.
  • We are asking the UK Government to recognise that research and innovation policy is devolved (apart from UKRI policy) and to co-produce any policy on domestic alternatives to (parts of) Horizon Europe with the Devolved Administrations.

Brexit could present challenges to Scotland’s workforce

  • Not only does funding from the EU support the up-skilling of our workforce and the development of people’s employability, but EU citizens work in a variety of sectors vital to the Scottish economy – such as hospitality and tourism, and health and social care.
  • Scotland is already facing challenging demographics in the existing workforce, which would be compounded by the loss of skilled EU citizens and it will be essential for colleges and universities to respond to these challenges. For example, colleges are already looking at how they can adapt their curriculum offer to meet these emerging needs.
  • We will continue to work with stakeholders across the sectors to ensure that our colleges and universities provide the training and learning required to meet any future skills gaps in the workforce.

Scotland remains open for collaboration with our European friends and partners

  • Scotland did not vote to leave the EU and we deeply value our close partnerships and collaborations with our European partners that we will work hard to keep.
  • We will use our network of Scottish Government Europe Hubs and other networks to strengthen bilateral and multilateral links with key European education, research and innovation partners.
  • We will use our office in Brussels to make Scotland’s voice heard in any EU policy debates on international higher and further education initiatives and programmes.



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