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Three-year Brexit visa plan ‘kick in the teeth’ to Scottish universities

Image credit: PA

Three-year Brexit visa plan ‘kick in the teeth’ to Scottish universities

A group which represents the UK’s leading universities is calling on the Home Secretary to scrap plans for a 36-month visa for EU nationals coming to the UK in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The Russell Group said the European Temporary Leave to Remain (ETLR) scheme would discriminate against Scottish universities and any future EU students wanting to study engineering and medicine courses, as they last more than three years.

Under the proposal, if a Brexit deal cannot be reached with Brussels, the UK government will introduce a new temporary immigration category for EU nationals arriving after Brexit but before the Home Office establishes the UK’s new immigration system, which it hopes to do by January 2021.

EU citizens arriving within this period would only be able to stay in the UK for three months before being required to obtain ETLR, allowing them to live, work and study for 36 months on a non-extendable basis.

Beyond that, there is still no clarity over what future visa options may exist or what the eligibility criteria would be.

Last year, around 15,000 EU students started UK university courses expected to last more than three years, which was a quarter of all EU students coming to study here.

Russell Group head of policy Jess Cole said: “Introducing a non-extendable, three-year visa for EU nationals would be bizarre.

“It’s a kick in the teeth to Scottish universities, given nearly every undergraduate course in Scotland is four years, and to courses such as medicine and engineering, which are also longer.

“This makes no sense for the NHS and industry, given the doctors and engineers we need.

“These are most likely unintended consequences of an ill-considered government policy – but even so, we have repeatedly made our concerns clear to the Home Office and have still received no reassurances.

“It’s time to scrap these plans and come good on the promises made to the EU citizens who contribute so much to our society and economy – whether they are here already or planning to come in the next few years.”

SNP MSP Sandra White has also hit out at the UK Government’s plans, saying it has failed to consider EU students at Scottish universities.

She said: “This is sheer incompetence from the Tory government who once again have failed to even give Scotland a second thought.

“Students and staff across the country are rightly outraged by this reckless disregard for Scotland’s world leading universities.

“Such an ill-considered policy would be detrimental to our higher education system driving Europe’s top students away from Scotland. 

“The Tories need to wake up and go back to the drawing board.”

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