Dual national university applicants, resident in the rest of the UK, will be required to prove they have previously exercised their right of EU residency in order to qualify as an EU student.
The legislation will be put in place by 2013-14 and it will mean prospective students have to show evidence of having lived in another EU member state for a period of at least three months, in order to be admitted as EU nationals, before qualifying to have their tuition fees paid.
Guidance has already been issued to universities to assist with assessing dual nationality applicants for 2012-13, and further guidance for 2013-14 is published today.
This action follows consultation with universities and will bring about a consistent approach across Scotland.
Education Secretary Michael Russell said:
“Since the very recent changes to tuition fees system there is little or no evidence of changes in the make-up of applicants. However, speculation over the opportunity for prospective students, resident in the rest of the UK, seeking another EU nationality to avoid paying fees has caused confusion.
“This legislation will require dual-national students to provide evidence that they have previously exercised their right of residence elsewhere and will prevent the use of dual-nationality solely to benefit from free tuition.
“We have today issued guidance to universities that will ensure a consistent approach across Scotland and provide clarity for students.”
Professor Pete Downes, Convener of Universities Scotland, said:
“Universities very much welcome this action from the Scottish Government. It’s important that students have access to reliable and consistent information on fees and financial support when applying to university in Scotland and we trust the forthcoming legislation will provide exactly that.
“Despite much speculation, Scotland’s universities have not seen a large influx of applicants from Northern Ireland looking to exploit the loophole. However, it is necessary to take action to close it for future years to avoid any confusion for students and parents alike. Every university in Scotland is proud to welcome students from across the UK and further afield to study here but what attracts them must continue to be the quality of the education we can offer.”
In accordance with our EU Treaty obligations, the nationals of another member state must be treated in the same way as we treat students living in Scotland. Scottish students benefit from free tuition, whereas students elsewhere in the UK do not. This has created a potential incentive for those students elsewhere in the UK who are able to claim dual nationality to do so in order to apply as a non-UK EU national and to benefit from free tuition.
The number of students with Northern Ireland postcodes accepted to Scottish institutions for session 2012/13 is down by 19 per cent according to UCAS statistics issued on 23 August. Equivalent figures for students with Republic of Ireland postcodes are down by 6 per cent.
The legislation will also apply to students within the wider European Economic Area and Switzerland.