SCOTLAND’S universities and colleges remain open to EU students despite Brexit uncertainty, the Higher Education Minister has told Europe’s education ministers.

Scotland has proportionally more EU students than any other part of the UK. In a letter to EU ministers, Richard Lochhead explained that the Scottish Government will pay tuition fees for eligible students from the EU, EEA and Switzerland who are starting courses this year or next.

The letter also makes the case for Scottish institutions continuing cross-border research and collaboration through Horizon 2020 and other relevant European programmes after Brexit.

Lochhead reiterated Scotland’s position of welcoming its European neighbours, writing: “Since the outcome of the EU referendum in the United Kingdom in June 2016, the Scottish Government has continued to welcome EU citizens to continue to study and work at universities and other research organisations in Scotland. The First Minister has given a clear message to all EU citizens who choose to live in Scotland: ‘you are welcome here, you contribute to this country’s diversity and richness and we will do everything we can to help you to stay’.

“EU students and staff are an essential part of our campus life. We are determined that they should continue to be able to come to Scotland. We have previously confirmed that we will continue to provide financial support to eligible students from the EU, EEA and Switzerland who commence courses at Scottish institutions in academic years 2019/2020 and 2020/2021, for the duration of their courses.

“This guarantee stands even in the event of failure of the UK Government to agree a withdrawal agreement.”

He went on: “Regardless of the outcome and the terms on which the UK leaves the EU, I do hope that our countries, students and academics can continue to benefit from successful mutual collaboration in the future.”

Britain is now due to leave the EU on October 31, and both PM candidates have said they would consider leaving without a deal.