RESEARCH funding was described as a welcome commitment for Scottish universities "given the recent uncertainty caused by Brexit" but European students remained unclear over key future course funding concerns after the Autumn Statement.

UK Government spending on economy-driving science and technology is to increase by a fifth, adding £4.7 billion to research and development funding over the next five years.

The extra money for scientists and engineers represents the biggest state cash boost for research and development since 1979, the Treasury said.

Research and development support will be increased incrementally, peaking at a real-terms additional £2 billion per year by 2020/21.

Chancellor Philip Hammond said Scotland would receive an extra £800m over five years in the Autumn Statement.

A spokesman for Universities Scotland, representative body of Scotland's 19 higher education institutions, said: "We welcome the investment in research and development over the next four years from the UK Government given the recent uncertainty caused by Brexit.

“We look forward to hearing from the Scottish Government about its plans for the £800m Barnett consequentials as well as its plans for supporting Scotland’s world-class universities in next month’s Budget.

"In addition, the movement on City Deals for Edinburgh and Tay Cities and the start for Stirling is positive news for universities in those regions."

Jeroen Van Herk, a Dutch-born first year sociology student at Abertay University, said questions still remained over the future funding for Scottish and EU students with Brexit ahead.

He said: "The big problem for students is that there is uncertainty about tuition fees and student loans, I think this year and next year it is fine but for the years after that we don't know.

"But it is good if there are more research funds, it will help fund courses."

The new money will be poured into potentially lucrative emerging fields of science and technology such as robotics and artificial intelligence, biotech, satellites, and advanced materials.

In terms of research, Britain is a world leader in all these areas.

But a common complaint is that all too often discoveries made in British laboratories are exploited and commercialised elsewhere.

Part of the new proposals will involve a new cross-disciplinary body, the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, to forge collaboration between industries and academic scientists.

The fund will be modelled on a similar programme run by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), but without the military focus.

One of the biggest beneficiaries is likely to be the pharmaceutical industry, which annually invests £4.2 billion in UK research and development - more than any other sector.

Mike Thompson, chief executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), said: "Significant investment into research and development will strengthen our position as the global leader in medicines discovery.

"As we negotiate the UK's exit from the European Union this focus on future innovation could not be more timely and is a clear signal to companies worldwide that the UK is open for business."

Dr Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group, which represents 24 leading UK universities, said: "We share the Chancellor's ambition to bridge the productivity gap with greater investment in research and innovation.

"Our universities should be at the heart of an ambitious industrial strategy to boost productivity and create a resilient economy based on high-skilled jobs, innovation and cutting-edge research."