ACADEMICS and students are ditching Scottish universities in favour of overseas rivals as fears grow over a no-deal Brexit, a survey has found. 

Every Scottish university that responded to a study by representative body Universities UK said it was “very” or “extremely concerned” about crashing out of the EU without an agreement.

And half of all institutions said they had already lost staff as a result of the looming prospect of a no-deal exit on October 31.

It comes as Boris Johnson prepares for a working lunch today with Jean-Claude Juncker in Luxembourg when the Prime Minister will make clear to the outgoing President of the European Commission that Britain has no desire to seek an extension beyond Hallowe’enOctober 31. 

But Mr Johnson will also say that, with creativity on both sides, a deal can be done for the next European Council, which takes place on October 17 – two weeks before the Brexit deadline.

Alastair Sim, director of Universities Scotland, which represents Scotland’s 19 higher education institutions, said it was clear leaving the EU without an agreement “would be a very bad outcome”.

He said: “As the countdown to October 31 looms and the possibility of no-deal becomes increasingly likely, our universities are committed to mitigating, as much as possible within our gift, the worst possible consequences of no-deal. 

“As responsible institutions, it’s our duty to protect our students and staff so I’m pleased to see so much activity dedicated to preparations for a no-deal outcome, however much it’s undesired by the sector.

“However, what we really want is an outcome that keep universities open to student and staff talent from the EU, and sustains our deep partnerships with our European neighbours.”

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Ten Scottish universities responded anonymously to a survey by Universities UK assessing its members’ preparedness for a no-deal Brexit. 

Many said they were already feeling the effects, despite their preparations.

Half said they had lost existing or potential staff to overseas universities, while 40 per cent said they had experienced “fluctuations in collaboration” among EU partners.

One-third said they had experienced “fluctuations in demand” from EU students.

Meanwhile, half of the universities said they had considered stockpiling, which can relate to everything from food supplies in residences to pharmaceutical and medical supplies.

The figures are just as stark across the wider UK. 

Of the 75 universities that responded, more than 80% are “very” or “extremely concerned” about the negative impact of a no-deal Brexit.

The survey indicated half of all institutions have experienced a change in demand from EU students, while more than 55% have seen a change in the level of collaboration with overseas partners.

And almost 60% have lost existing or potential staff members to overseas institutions.

However, 52% of universities said they were very prepared for a no-deal exit, and 48% said they were slightly prepared. 

In Scotland, 80% of respondents said they had communicated to staff and students about likely changes to immigration policy while 60% had encouraged staff to apply for settled status. 

All of the universities had evaluated the risk to their workforce and student recruitment, based on EU staff and student numbers.

Liam McCabe, president of National Union of Students (NUS) Scotland, said the UK Government’s “reckless approach” to Brexit is damaging the education sector. 

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He said: “We are losing talented EU staff, and missing out on the abilities and contributions of EU students. 

“With a disastrous no-deal Brexit potentially just weeks away, the UK Government must heed the warnings coming from Scotland’s education sector.

“Steps must be taken to ensure Scotland remains an attractive place to work and learn. We will continue to demand a visa system that accounts for our four-year undergraduate degrees and hold the UK Government to account to ensure international mobility for students and staff alike.

“Whatever happens in the coming months, students’ voices must be heard. We encourage all students to register to vote, and demand that students have a say on any final Brexit deal.” 

It came as the Scottish Government reiterated calls for greater powers over immigration to protect Scotland’s economy, public services and future population growth.

External Affairs Secretary Fiona Hyslop said the UK Government’s wider proposals for a post-Brexit migration system would be “disastrous for Scotland”.

She said: “Given our declining birth rate all of Scotland’s population growth for the next 25 years is projected to come from migration, but the UK Government’s proposals to end free movement of people and set arbitrary migration targets present a real risk.

“It is clearer by the day that Scotland urgently needs a migration policy tailored to our distinct needs and for the devolution of powers to develop, deliver and maintain policies that meet the needs of Scotland’s universities, communities, public services and economy.”

Labour’s shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said: “Boris Johnson’s reckless no-deal Brexit would be disastrous for our universities. 

“Nearly one in five university academics are EU nationals and they all face uncertainty and anxiety about their future. 

“A chaotic and damaging no-deal Brexit will also have a devastating impact on the ability of our universities to recruit students from EU countries and access research funding. 

“Yet the new Education Secretary has been unable to give universities even the most basic reassurance that he has any credible plan. 

“That is why Labour will continue to take all necessary steps to stop Boris Johnson forcing us into a No Deal Brexit that no one voted for.”

A UK Government spokeswoman said: “This Government is committed to making sure Britain is prepared for any circumstances related to Brexit, and We are pleased to see that universities are being diligent in their preparation for leaving the EU.

"We have confirmed that EU nationals and EEA Swiss Nationals will continue to be eligible for home status tuition fees and student finance for higher education courses starting in 2020/21 – for the duration of their courses.

“In addition, we have committed to raise the investment in research and development and maintain the UK’s position as a science superpower in a post-Brexit world. We have also confirmed that we will underwrite Horizon 2020 funding for eligible, competitive bids to provide clarity and assurance to businesses and universities.”