European students who travel to Scotland to study can still benefit from free tuition after the UK’s formal Brexit date.
The Scottish Government has announced that students from other European Union (EU) countries who start their course in the academic year 2019-20 will not be charged tuition fees.
Shirley-Anne Somerville, the higher education minister, said the move sent a “strong message” that EU citizens were “welcome” in Scotland.
Britain is scheduled to exit the EU in March 2019, two years after Theresa May sent the Article 50 letter.
Ms Somerville said that students starting their degree that autumn would still get free access to university.
She told MSPs at Holyrood that the Scottish Government had already pledged to provide free tuition for EU students starting their courses in 2017-18 and 2018-19.
She added: “I can announce that we will now extend that commitment to the 2019-20 student cohort.
“This means that all eligible non-UK EU citizens who come to Scotland to study for an undergraduate higher education qualification in 2019-20 will benefit from free tuition.”
She stated: “This will provide confidence for prospective EU students considering coming to study in Scotland, as well as the clarity that our institutions require in order to plan for that academic year.
“We are the first government in the UK to make such a commitment.
“We do so to send a strong message to current and prospective students – you are welcome here.”
Professor Andrea Nolan, convener of Universities Scotland, welcomed the move, saying: “We are delighted that the Scottish Government has responded to the sector’s call for clarity on this position and they have done so in a timely fashion.
“Today’s announcement gives some much-needed clarity and assurance to universities, but most importantly demonstrates to EU students that they continue to be welcome in Scotland.
“EU students are a core part of many important courses but are also highly-valued educationally, culturally and economically, not just by universities but the communities in which they live.”
Opposition politicians at Holyrood also welcomed the move from the Scottish Government.
Liz Smith, education spokeswoman for the Scottish Conservatives, said: “It is important to send out a strong message to current and prospective students that Scotland is a good place to be.
“I think all MSPs are aware of the outstanding contribution EU students and staff make to our universities, often at the cutting edge of research and development.”
Labour Holyrood education spokesman Iain Gray said the announcement had been made in “good time” for students who are still considering where to attend university.
“It does mean that EU citizens thinking of applying to study in Scotland in that academic year will know what support will be available to them, and that is important,” he said.