Brexit blamed for 4% fall in EU university applicants

A graduation ceremony at St Andrews University.
A graduation ceremony at St Andrews University.
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The number of EU applicants to Scottish universities has dropped 4 per cent on last year, showing the “damaging reality of Brexit”, the Scottish Government has said.

However, the number of non-EU international applicants increased by 6 per cent compared to last year, higher than the 2 per cent increase in the UK as a whole, according to Scottish Government analysis of UCAS figures.

Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Employability and Training, said the figures showed a “positive picture” for Scotland’s “world class higher education system”.

However, he urged the UK Government to ditch its hard Brexit model, warning it would doubtless have a “hugely negative impact” on areas such as higher education.

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He said: “Scotland’s universities continue to attract students from around the world, with the number of non-EU international applicants increasing by 6% compared to last year - higher than the 2 per cent increase in the UK as a whole.

“This is good news for Scotland and we are keen to welcome those who wish to come to Scotland to live, learn and work. The Scottish Government is determined to support our valuable higher education sector and we are committed to working with our universities to continue to attract the very best students from around the world.

“It has to be said that while we welcome international students from outwith the EU we are deeply concerned that these latest statistics also show a decrease of 4 per cent in the number of applicants from the EU. While Scotland fares better than England when it comes to attracting EU domiciles, it is still worrying to see this decrease in applicants, the damaging reality of Brexit.

“We are urging the UK Government to ditch their hard Brexit model which will no doubt have a hugely negative impact on areas such as higher education, not only in Scotland but also in the rest of the UK.”

He added: “We are very proud of our tradition for excellence in education, and also of our deep-seated sense of internationalism. We want every student who has come from outside Scotland - from the EU or further afield - to study here to know that they are very much welcome. EU and international students are welcome in Scotland.”

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A Department for Education spokesman said: “EU and international students, staff and researchers make an important contribution to our higher education sector and we want that to continue.

“The UK has a long established system that supports and attracts global talent, at all stages of their careers, and we have made it very clear that the UK will remain open to the talent we need from Europe and the rest of the world.”

Ministers previously announced that EU students starting their courses at English universities or further education institutions in 2018-19 would continue to be eligible to pay the same tuition fees as UK students and access student loans for the duration of their course.