HUNDREDS of EU students will be supported to study in Scotland through a new £2.25 million scholarship programme.

The Saltire Scholarship scheme has been designed to help ease the negative impact of Brexit on student numbers.

The latest data from UCAS shows a 41% decrease in the number of EU students applying to study at Scottish universities this academic year.

The £2.25m in funding has been allocated to institutions through the Scottish Funding Council and students starting their studies this autumn or in January can apply for support.

Scholarships will be considered by universities for Masters level post-graduate study and colleges will consider applications for Higher National (HN) level, Higher National Certificate (HNC) or Higher National Diploma (HND).

Minister for Higher and Further Education Jamie Hepburn said: “EU students make an absolutely vital contribution to our economy, educational environment and society as a whole.

“Our new scholarship programme will help strengthen and repair our links with the EU and sends a clear message that Scotland is open for business to European students.

“In the last year we have sadly seen a dramatic reduction in applications from EU students looking to study here, we are determined to do all we can to reverse the damage caused by Brexit and promote Scotland’s education offer globally.”

The UK left the EU's Erasmus student exchange programme after Brexit took effect this year making it more difficult for European students to study in Scotland and the ability for Scots to study on the continent.

The scheme was previously used by more than 2000 Scottish students and young people every year, according to Scottish Government figures.