Free tuition at Scottish universities has been guaranteed for all EU students applying for the next academic year.
Following the referendum result in June this year, Scotland’s Education Secretary, John Swinney, has guaranteed that all EU students applying to study at Scottish universities for the year 2017-18 will not pay tuition fees.
This was established after the UK Government Minister for Universities and Science Jo Johnson confirmed that EU students would still be eligible for grants and loans in English universities.
In Scotland, EU students are entitled to the same free tuition in universities as Scottish students due to EU laws. This includes the right to use SAAS (Student Awards Agency Scotland) for funding support. Swinney announced this would continue at the SNP Autumn conference in Glasgow.
Swinney stated: “We have already confirmed tuition fee funding to support EU students studying here, or preparing to start this year. Now, we will extend that guarantee to those starting next year in 2017/18. And, unlike Labour and the Tories, that’s tuition-free education we are guaranteeing – not the massive fees they impose on students wherever they come from.”
The problem that was initially faced by the Scottish Government concerned the estimated £75 million in tuition fee subsidies that the policy cost due to 13,450 EU students studying free of charge at Scottish universities last year. With up to 13,500 EU students estimated to apply for Scottish courses beginning in 2017, this raised a problem as the free tuition policy states that universities cannot increase fees paid by other students to accommodate for this.
With many application deadlines coming to a close this month, the Scottish Government were under pressure to decide if free tuition for EU citizens would be guaranteed. The director of the Universities of Scotland, Alastair Sim, stated: “It is very difficult to ask EU applicants to make decisions about the next four years of their life without knowing if they are entitled to fee-free higher education or not.”
But despite the problems and pressure faced, Swinney stated that he is desperate to “free every single child from the burden of poverty” and argued that providing free tuition fees to EU students after the vote for Brexit will help tackle the gap between the rich and the poor.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon agreed in making this a priority. Sturgeon is now pushing for the right for EU citizens to stay in the country after the UK leaves the EU, which is expected to happen in 2019.
President of the Students’ Representative Council, Ameer Ibrahim, said: “The SRC takes the view that as negotiations proceed going forward, EU Students should continue to receive support provision as far as possible for the government, and that there should be no change to support in place for current students.”