EU students at Scottish universities to pay tuition fees after Brexit transition period

With “heavy heart”, Scottish government ends free education for new EU students from 2021/22

New EU students at Scottish universities will have to pay tuition fees of September 2021.

In a statement to the Scottish parliament yesterday (9 July), minister for further education (FE), higher education (HE) and science Richard Lochhead described the combination of Covid-19 and Brexit as “a double whammy” – and said that with a “heavy heart” the government had taken the “difficult decision” to end free education for new EU students from the academic year 2021/22 onwards.

After the Brexit transition period, explained Mr Lochhead, it would no longer be mandatory to pay the fees of EU students. Indeed, to do so, he added, would “significantly increase the risk of any legal challenge.”

A painful reminder that our country’s decisions are affected by UK policies that we do not support and did not vote for – Richard Lochhead

The situation was, said Mr Lochhead, “a painful reminder that our country’s decisions are affected by UK policies that we do not support and did not vote for.”

To ensure Scotland remains an attractive destination for EU students despite the introduction of tuition fees, the minister said the government would discuss “an ambitious scholarship programme to ensure that the ancient European nation of Scotland continues to attract significant numbers of European students to study here.”

Richard Lochhead with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

He also confirmed that the funding currently supporting the places of EU students at Scottish universities – estimated to be up to £19m for 2021/22 – would not now be removed from the sector’s overall funding, but invested into the sector to increase the number of students from Scotland getting a place at university.

EU students who have already started their studies, or who start this autumn, will remain tuition-free for the entirety of their course.

Support measures:

In his speech, Mr Lochhead also pledged financial support for FE and HE due to the damaging effects of Covid-19 on international student mobility, commercial income, and charitable and industry research income.

The support measures includes:

  • £75m to protect world leading research
  • £10m for estates development
  • Development of an International Student Action Plan
  • Additional £5m across FE and HE student support
  • Early access to £11.4m of HE Hardship Funds

Scottish universities will also have access to the grants and substantial long-term low interest loans that the UK government announced on 27 June to help cover research costs.


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