LEADING figures in education, research and science are to travel to Brussels on Monday in a bid to protect Scottish universities from the effects of Brexit.

Led by Minister for Higher Education and Science, Richard Lochhead, the team will meet with EU partners and make the case that strong collaboration with researchers in EU countries and the rest of the world is hugely important for the future.

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Universities Scotland estimate Scotland’s universities are worth £11 billion to the economy. They point out that researchers and businesses are highly competitive when it comes to winning EU research and innovation funding from Horizon 2020 and other programmes, but Lochhead said Scotland’s global reputation for ground-breaking research and innovation was now facing “unprecedented risks”.

“We know that Scotland’s research has been strengthened by EU citizens working in Scotland, our membership of the European Union and our active participation in the Horizon 2020 programme. The benefits that such participation has provided cannot be underestimated and we will not stand by and see these benefits eroded.”

Alastair Sim, director of Universities Scotland, added: “The quality of the research and education Scottish higher education delivers is strengthened because of the partnerships we have across the European Union. Those relationships are important and that remains the case whatever the outcome of the Brexit process.”

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Scotland has proportionally more EU staff and students than the rest of the UK – around 9% of all university students are EU domiciled while 27% of full time research staff are EU nationals. EU nationals accounted for more than 75,000 college enrolments between 2012 and 2017 and, on average, 10% of Scottish universities’ research income comes from the EU.

Scotland has also benefited from €558 million from Horizon 2020, the biggest ever EU research and innovation programme, and €64m from Erasmus, an EU programme for education which allows young people to study abroad.

The Scottish Government has already confirmed that eligible EU students currently studying here or starting a degree this year or next will continue to be eligible for free tuition.