24/02/2015 10:04 GMT | Updated 24/02/2015 10:59 GMT

Scotland's Free Education Sees Scottish Students Losing Places To EU Candidates

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The percentage of Scottish students at Edinburgh and other universities has fallen while EU numbers have risen

Scottish students may be losing university places to their EU counterparts as a result of the Scottish free education policy.

Scottish and EU students do not have to pay tuition fees at Scottish universities and recent years have seen a higher proportion of EU students studying in Scotland than in other parts of the UK.

According to figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency, Scottish universities have the highest proportion of EU domiciled students at 9%, as well as the smallest overall proportion of UK domiciled students compared to England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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The percentage of Scottish students has fallen at some of Scotland's most prestigious universities. The number of Scots at Glasgow fell from 72% (11,268) in 2011/12 to 63% (10,656) in 2013/14. In the same period the number of EU domiciled students rose by 3% to 14.4% (2,437).

At Dundee the percentage of Scots fell from 79.4% (7,855) in 2009/10 to 71.2% (6,518) in 2014/15, while the number of EU students has risen from 460 to 792. At Edinburgh the number of Scottish students decreased from 44.6% (8,309) in 2011/12 to 40.5% (8,014) in 2014/15 while the number of EU domiciled students increased to 2,028 from 8.6% to 10.3%.

Speaking to The Scotsman, Professor Robert Wright of Strathclyde University said that "word is getting around" of the lack of tuition fees at Scottish universities.

"The message gets across that you can come here, you don’t pay these big tuition fees that you would have to pay if you went to England or the United States and here they are."

Students from other parts of the UK still have to pay tuition fees to attend Scottish universities.