SCOTTISH students are facing greater pressure for university places after a sharp rise in the number of applicants from the rest of Europe.

New figures show the number of EU students applying to Scottish universities has increased by 13 per cent since 2011.

The rise is important because EU students compete for the same places as Scots and the estimated £80 million cost of educating them is the responsibility of the Scottish taxpayer.

Academic representatives have called on the Scottish Government to monitor the figures closely to ensure there isn't a resulting squeeze on home students.

Mary Senior, UCU Scotland official, said: "Scotland benefits enormously from students coming from overseas to study in Scotland who contribute both to our universities and all students' educational experience.

"We need to keep an eye on the figures to ensure that we are funding sufficient places both for students from the EU and overseas, but also for home domiciled students. This is particularly the case at a time when we are looking at how best to increase access for students from poorer backgrounds."

Student body NUS Scotland said the increased pressure on places demonstrated the popularity of Scottish higher education, but also urged scrutiny.

Vonnie Sandlan, president of NUS Scotland, said: "If the demand for university courses continues to outstrip supply, we need to look at increasing investment in places in order to make sure that all Scottish students with the talent are able to get a university place, while still welcoming a diverse group of students from Europe and overseas."

A spokeswoman for Universities Scotland, which represents university principals, said Scottish higher education was attractive to EU students given the quality on offer and the entitlement to free access.

She added: "It comes as no surprise to universities that the number of EU students wanting to come to Scotland has grown over the last five years, but this has not been at the expense of Scottish students.

"The number of Scottish students accepted into university in Scotland has continued to increase and this is something that universities, the Scottish Funding Council and Scottish Government keep under close watch."

The figures, from the UK-wide Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas), show there has been a 13 per cent rise in applications from students from the EU since 2011 with numbers rising from 17,000 to 19,200. Over the same period applications from the EU to higher education across the UK has risen just three per cent.

The figures also show record numbers of Scottish-domiciled students want to go to university here with applications rising two per cent to 43,720.

The number of international students from outside the EU - who do not compete with Scots - has risen by four per cent. Meanwhile, applications from potential students from the rest of the UK have risen two per cent.

Fiona McLeod, Acting Minister for Young People, said: "These figures show the strength of our higher education sector and are to be warmly welcomed. For record numbers of students from home and elsewhere, Scotland remains an attractive destination to study higher education.

"Scots-domiciled students have their fees paid as we firmly believe that education should be based on the ability to learn, not the ability to pay. Recent figures have shown a 40 per cent increase in the proportion of 18 year old Scots from the most disadvantaged areas accepted to higher education, but we are determined to widen access still further."