Brexit: Fears for the future of Scottish university courses

The collapse in EU student recruitment after Brexit threatens the sustainability of courses at world-class institutions such as the Royal Conservatory of Scotland (RCS), according to higher education leaders (HE).

Universities Scotland (US), which represents institutions north of the border, calls on ministers to invest nearly £ 20million per year in an EU-focused Welsh-style exchange program that would boost inbound mobility and would help improve the situation.

UCAS data released in August showed that while extra-EU recruitment held up better than expected, the number of individuals from the bloc who were placed on the 2021/22 courses plunged 56% from the previous session.

As a result of Brexit, EU students without institutional or pre-establishment status have to pay much higher tuition fees. They are also no longer eligible for UK student loans. Observers say this has hit recruitment hard, especially in poorer continental states. It is feared that the decline, combined with an insufficient flow of Scottish learners in certain subjects, poses a major threat to the sustainability of courses.

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US bosses have welcomed the recent announcement of a £ 2.25million scholarship program to support citizens of the bloc who wish to come to Scotland. However, in a submission released as Holyrood ministers prepare the 2022/23 budget and medium-term financial strategy, they say there should be a multi-year commitment for both scholarships and a “new mobility agenda. “which will provide opportunities for” reciprocal movement “. ”Of students domiciled in Scotland and the EU. They expect the arrangement to require a total financial contribution of £ 19.7million per year.

The US submission also warns that the block recruitment collapse “diminishes the home-based student experience and creates particular problems for maintaining Scottish universities’ offer in subjects where EU students have been educated. a significant part of the student body, especially in STEM and creative subjects ”.

It comes after Boris Johnson’s government decided to end the UK’s participation in the EU’s Erasmus + program. British ministers have since launched a replacement project called the Turing Scheme, which has been at the center of a row over whether it helps or hinders those looking to undertake study abroad.

The UK government says Turing will strengthen its ‘World Britain’ and ‘Race to the Top’ programs by providing more opportunities for poorer students. But critics insist the program is inferior to Erasmus +. They say it focuses on outgoing mobility, doesn’t offer the same level of reciprocity to incoming students, doesn’t provide research / partnership funding, and leaves faculty out.

HeraldScotland: Graduates are celebrating at the Royal Conservatory in Glasgow, but the number of EU students is on the decline.Graduates are celebrating at the Royal Conservatory in Glasgow, but the number of EU students is on the decline.

Alastair Sim, US director, told the Herald that the decline in the number of European students has created significant pressure within higher education departments. He said, “To give you some examples … a – [in the] various engineering disciplines, there isn’t the flow of learners from Scottish schools with high-level quantified skills – absolutely high-level superiors, for example, in math – that you might hope for. And so there have been some really good engineering courses that have been quite dependent on recruiting from the EU to support them.

“Another example is the Conservatory (RCS), which does a great job of reaching and recruiting Scottish students but, again, there is a problem with the lack of students, especially students from more background. disadvantaged, being supported to take an instrument to a high standard in Scottish schools. Their aspirations to recruit as many Scottish students as needed to take a course are therefore limited. They have been enriched by the fact that EU students maintain their courses alongside Scottish students. ”

He added, “Basically we’re approaching this from the point of view that Turing’s program sort of works for outbound mobility, but it’s not as rich a program as we had before. Thus, for example, the incoming mobility of EU students is not covered.

READ MORE: Scotland funds scholarship scheme for EU students as university applications plunge

A Scottish government spokesperson said: ‘Over the past year we have unfortunately seen a dramatic reduction in applications from European students wishing to study here.

“We remain committed to Erasmus + and explore how to re-secure Scotland’s access to it. In the meantime, we are developing a Scottish Education Exchange Program to support participants from across the Scottish education system. ”

A spokesperson for the UK Department for Education said: ‘The Turing program is providing more than £ 7million to universities, schools and colleges in Scotland this year, so that students from all backgrounds can undertake internships and study internships that change their lives.


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