EU students at Forth Valley College will continue to benefit from free tuition in the coming years despite the ongoing Brexit uncertainty.
Falkirk West MSP Michael Matheson has welcomed a Scottish Government announcement that EU citizens who start Further or Higher education courses in Scotland in the 2020-21 academic year will get the same fee support as Scottish students for the entirety of their course.
It follows an earlier guarantee that this funding for EU students will be continued for those who start their studies in 2019-20.
The offer of tuition fee support will stand even if current legal obligations to EU students cease to apply if and when the UK exits the bloc – making Scotland the first nation in the UK to offer this commitment.
EU nationals accounted for more than 75,000 college enrolments in Scotland between 2012 and 2017.
Since 2000, Scotland’s colleges have benefitted from about £210million of direct EU funding.
Mr Matheson said: “The SNP recognises the contribution that EU students at Forth Valley College make to our local community.
“Despite the lingering uncertainty of Brexit, this announcement sends a strong message to EU citizens who are thinking of studying here that Scotland remains open and welcoming.
“The sad reality is that leaving the EU will see Scotland’s colleges and universities miss out on millions of pounds of EU funding, while Scottish students on exchange programmes such as Erasmus also look set to lose out.”
Commentators have warned that many of the 15,000 UK citizens who are studying in other EU countries may suddenly find themselves liable for international student fees, medical care and travel insurance after Brexit.
Shona Struthers, chief executive of Colleges Scotland, said: “It is a very welcome development that the Scottish Government has extended this financial assurance.
“As a sector, we recognise and value the significant contribution non-UK EU nationals make to our institutions and society, so we are determined to do all we can to continue attracting those students to colleges in a post-Brexit landscape.”