PLANS for three-year student visas in the event of a no-deal Brexit have been labelled a “kick in the teeth” for Scotland’s universities because of their traditional four-year degrees.

Leading educationalists said the Home Office scheme was “bizarre”, given many UK-wide courses such as medicine and architecture also last longer than three years.

The Russell Group of elite universities, which includes Glasgow and Edinburgh, urged UK ministers to scrap the European Temporary Leave to Remain (ELTR) visa.

The Home Office has proposed that if there is a no-deal Brexit, EU citizens would only be able to stay in the UK for three months before being required to obtain an ELTR.

This would let them to live, work and study in the UK for 36 months but would be “non-extendable”.

Although the Government says a new visa system would be devised by 2021, there are no details, leading to fears the ELTR could act as a deterrent to would-be students.

Last year, around 15,000 EU students started UK university courses expected to last more than three years - a quarter of all EU students coming to study here.

Russell Group policy head Jess Cole said: “Introducing a non-extendable, three-year visa for EU nationals would be bizarre. It’s a kick in the teeth to Scottish universities, given nearly every undergraduate course in Scotland is four years, and to courses such as medicine and engineering, which are also longer. It makes no sense for the NHS and industry, given the doctors and engineers we need.

“These are most likely the unintended consequences of an ill-considered Government policy - but even so, we have repeatedly made our concerns clear to the Home Office and have still received no reassurances.

“It’s time to scrap these plans and come good on the promises made to the EU citizens who contribute so much to our society and economy - whether they are here already or planning to come in the next few years.”

Jo Swinson, MP for East Dunbartonshire and deputy UK leader of the LibDems, has written to Home Secretary Sajid Javid asking him to drop the ELTR plan.

She said: “The Home Secretary is asking students who want to study in Scotland to commit to a four-year course with only a guarantee of a non-extendable three-year visa. He has a degree in economics, so he doesn’t need me to tell him that four into three just doesn’t work.”

SNP higher education minister Richard Lochhead said the scheme must be “dropped immediately” and pledged to raise the issue at an education ministers’ meeting today.

He said: “Brexit is already the single biggest risk to Scottish universities, and with 9% of our university students coming from the EU this damaging policy further threatens our ability to attract and retain EU staff and students.”

He said it showed Scotland’s needs again being ignored during Brexit.