THE Home Secretary has been accused of “either ignorance or incompetence” over the plight of EU students in Scotland after a no-deal Brexit.

In a letter to Sajid Javid, the Scottish Government’s Constitutional Relations Secretary, Michael Russell, urged the UK Government to guarantee EU students in Scotland will be able to complete their courses at university after Brexit.

Russell warned that a proposal in the event of a no-deal scenario to allow students to obtain leave to remain for three years fails to provide clarity over whether they would be able to complete their courses.

Russell said the plan demonstrated either “ignorance about the Scottish system or incompetence”, as the majority of undergraduate courses in Scotland last for four years.

The Scottish minister said: “Scotland has a world-class higher education sector and a long-standing reputation for being amongst the best in the world. But Brexit is already the biggest risk to the sector, threatening our ability to attract and retain EU staff and students.

“This damaging policy has many consequences for Scottish institutions, putting them at a competitive disadvantage with regards to undergraduate recruitment.

“It is not clear whether the decision to offer leave for only three years is the result of ignorance about the Scottish system or incompetence, but it is utterly ridiculous that the Home Secretary does not recognise the change required.

“The uncertainty of Brexit – and the end of freedom of movement – continue to be the biggest threat to our university sector.”

He added: “The UK Government is simply ignoring the fact that the majority of undergraduate courses in Scotland last four years, putting Scottish universities at a serious disadvantage when competing to attract EU nationals to study.

“Action from the UK Government is needed urgently especially when the risk of a ‘no deal’ Brexit is rapidly increasing.”

In the letter, Russell noted an intention outlined by Javid to allow students on courses longer than three years to more easily move into the Tier 4 student visa route once their European temporary leave to remain status expires, in the event of no deal.

However, he said that such a scenario would represent an “unacceptable disadvantage” to Scottish institutions and would leave students at a disadvantage with no certainty over whether they could complete their course.

He also told Javid it was “disingenuous to say that this policy will only affect certain EEA and Swiss national students taking longer courses”.

It comes as the SNP warn that Westminster is costing Scotland £1.5 billion a year in relation to overseas graduates.

The party said retaining just 5000 more international graduates in Scotland per year would deliver the economic boost within a decade, also plugging skill gaps in key sectors.

However, MSP Tom Arthur said “stubborn ideological opposition” from the Tories was preventing a change to visa requirements.

Currently, most non-EU students have to leave within three months of graduation – and Brexit poses risks to the status of EU students.

Arthur added: “It’s becoming increasingly clear that we need the full powers of independence to tailor a system that works in our interests, not against them.”