BREXIT could reduce a "squeeze" on the number of Scottish students able to go to university, MSPs have heard.

Alastair Sim, director of Universities Scotland, told Holyrood's Education Committee that leaving the EU could help "rebalance" admissions at Scottish institutions.

The issue has arisen because of a potential cash windfall for universities from Brexit.

EU students are currently funded from the public purse, but will have to pay fees once the UK leaves the European Union.

Universities argue the money should be used to fund more places for Scottish students, but ministers have already appeared to rule the move out.

Read more: Ministers snub call for university Brexit windfall

One of the issues for the government is the fact universities could gain from the Brexit process without extra public funding because EU students will have to pay fees.

Lib Dem MSP Tavish Scott raised concerns the current cap on funded university places for Scottish and EU students - who both receive free tuition - was resulting in some applicants being "squeezed out".

Sim told the committee that while it was not a major problem currently, it was likely to become so in future as universities work towards a target to have 20% of students come from Scotland's most deprived areas by 2030.

He said: "What you're broadly seeing at the moment is growth in people coming in from the most deprived quintile and relative stability in people coming in from the other quintiles. So that is not an unreasonable picture at the moment.

"As you look towards the future and towards achieving the targets that we all aspire to for 2030, as you increase your recruitment from the most deprived parts of the community you also want to protect your ability to recruit from all the other parts of the community, all the other quintiles.

"I think over the period to 2030 we were certainly saying, to achieve that it's reasonable to look for growth in the number of funded places so that we can be fair to everybody.

"That means more funded places which as we have said we have the opportunity as we look beyond Brexit."

Ms Scott asked: "If there's no more money, there's no more funded places, unless you find another way to fund it then there will be a squeeze?"

Read more: Universities issue warning over access targets

Mr Sim responded: "Yes, but I think while we wish to maintain our openness to EU students in the future and while they are important to many of our subject areas and to our skills pipeline, I think there will be a re-balancing between Scottish domiciled and EU students and I think that does release an opportunity to widen access while being fair to everybody else.

"I would expect there to be fewer EU domiciled undergraduates in the system after the Brexit transition period while still maintaining our openness to at least some sustainable number of them."