Dual citizenship is no longer a ticket to free education

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To claim European ancesters are not enough anymore for those UK students want to avoid scottish school fees. Photo: Elin Larsson

A dual citizenship has been a way for UK students to avoid the Scottish school fees. For students from Northern Ireland there are possibilities to claim an Irish passport to get around the system and for others a French grandmother or a Danish ancestor could have saved them thousands of pounds. But those days are over. In September the loophole will be closed.

By Elin Larsson and Natalija Sako

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Alex Oram came to Scotland because it is cheaper and because he favors the scottisch climate. A lot of his classmates study for free because of a european passport. Photo: private

Scotland, UK: After the Good Friday agreement in Northern Ireland everyone has the right to claim an Irish identity. For some students an extra passport have saved them thousands of pounds. But even students from outside the European Union have had the potential to claim a dual nationality by proving their relation to European ancestors and thereby study for free. Alex Oram is studying medicine at the University of Aberdeen. He is aware that many students are trying to use the loophole.

– I definitely have seen that there are a lot of people with a dual citizenship here. Several of my friends have dual citizenships, a lot are from US and another country in Europe and they chose to study in Scotland because it was free, he says.

 According to the Scottish education secretary Michael Russel foreign students cost the Scottish taxpayers millions of pounds per year so last year the government announced the loophole will be closed. The new changes will take place in September this year.

– A student claiming a certain nationality will now have to be able to demonstrate that they have exercised their right of free movement, that they have lived in that other member state, before the relevant nationality can be used to apply for fee support., says Michael Russell, Scottish education secretary.

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The old bridge in Edinburgh separates the old and the new.  Photo: Elin Larsson

Students applying with an EU-passport from next semester will be required to prove that they previously lived in that particular EU country for at least three months before sending their application for having their tuition fees paid. Robin Parker, the president of the student organisation NUS Scotland, supports the new clarified rules.

– This will provide the guidance necessary for students from outside Scotland to make an informed choice when applying to come to university in Scotland, he says.

Even though the student organisation welcome a clarification of the rules they don’t see a large number of applicants from EU as a problem.

– Recent statistics have shown that the number of applicants from the EU has not risen significantly. In addition, it was never clear whether applying as an EU student would actually have benefited the applicant, as the student might not have found a place at the course, he says.

Alex Oram welcomes more EU students and does not agree with the student organisation about a limited number of EU students.

 – From my experience I definitely think there is a higher proportion of EU students at Scottish universities than UK. And I think the mixed nationalities is definitely a benefit, there are a lot of people that I am friends with that I would not have been otherwise, he says.