Hike in tuition fees for EU students in the UK post-Brexit

Published 2021-05-15 09:25:42
College in Oxford

Following Brexit, the UK government has formally established that students from the European Union (EU), European Economic Area (EEA) and Swiss students will no longer be eligible for “home fee status” from the autumn term of 2021. These students also no longer qualify for any undergraduate, postgraduate, or advanced learner support from the start of the academic year 2021/22.

EU students will lose all discounts

Students from the EU, EEA, and Switzerland previously enjoyed local student rates if they were studying in the UK - the same as local UK students would pay (and sometime even less).

Student fees (also called tuition fees) varies according to the different nations which make up the United Kingdom. In England, bachelor programmes could reach £9250 per academic year while in Wales it was capped at £9000 per year. In Scotland, undergraduate fees were free to all Scottish and EU/EEA students. However, Brexit has changed all of that.

Previous situation until 2020

Tuition fees were first introduced in September 1998 under the Labour government of Tony Blair; students were required to pay up to £1,000 a year for tuition (therefore, usually £3000 for a 3-year bachelor degree). In 2003, despite promises not to impose top-up fees, Labour increased tuition fees to £3,000 a year after winning the general elections. In 2012 , tuition fees were raised to £9,000/year, under the Tory-Libdems coalition government (and despite the Libdems having run all their campaign on the pledge to scrap the tuition fees - this U-turn consecutively destroyed the party).

However, Scotland and Wales decided not to apply a blanket tuition fee policy.

In Scotland, the amount depended on the student status: the lowest fees are paid by Scottish students and students from EU countries (called “Home” students) and it was commonly covered by the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS) for undergraduate degrees; students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland had to pay higher fees than Home students (usually £9,250 for the first three years), but they usually paid the same for postgraduate degrees (£5,000 - £15,000); students from outside the UK and outside the EU fell into the category of “International” students and paid even higher tuition fees (£10,000 - £30,000).

In Wales, the local government decided not to reduce student fees but compensate Welsh students by providing funding for undergraduates; it means that as well as tuition fee loans and maintenance finance for your living costs (Government Learning Grant and a maintenance loan may provide combined funding of £8,790-£12,930), students can get from £1,000 to £8,100 knocked off their loan repayments if they're from Wales.

New fee structure means a big increase for EU students

  • Fees are no longer capped for EU/EEA students.
  • Expected increases at the public UK universities can be three to fourfold.
  • An undergraduate year may cost between £30-40K depending on the type of degree (notably medical studies).
  • Private universities may become even more expensive.
  • According to the website MastersPortals, previously a masters degree in Egyptology would cost €12968 but now post-Brexit the same degree will cost you €29047- almost more than double!
  • Students from the EU/EEA and Switzerland are no longer eligible for financial help from 2021 onwards. However, students who obtained this financial help in 2018, 2019 and 2020 will still be eligible for help until their degree programme is complete.

A direct consequence of the new rules is that the Scottish government will end free university tuition for European Union students from 2021 (i.e. all non-UK students will be treated identically). Local authorities claim that continuing with this preferential policy would significantly increase a risk of any legal challenge.

Some Exceptions to the new rule

Students under some circumstances can still benefit from the previous rules:

  1. EU/EEA and Swiss students who are already enrolled in a UK university.
  2. EU/EEA and Swiss students who commenced their academic year in September 2020.
  3. EU/EEA students who have arrived in the UK after 1 January 2021 and will commence studies before 31 July 2021.
  4. Irish students who reside in the UK or Ireland.
  5. Some EU/EEA and Swiss nationals who benefit from Citizens" Rights under the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement, EEA EFTA Separation Agreement or Swiss Citizens" Rights Agreement.
  6. Some foreign students who have enrolled in 2020, 2019 or 2018 and they expect to finish in 2021 or later are exempt from this new ruling. Those international students are eligible for “home fee status” and they can apply for a student loan even if the course will be completed after 2021.

The maximum tuition fee universities in Northern Ireland can charge is £9,250 a year for Great Britain and EU students likewise, but if you're a Northern Ireland resident (or from the Republic of Ireland) studying in the country, you can expect to pay much less than that (£4,530). Similarly to Wales you can get a mix of grants and loans from the local government (also applicable to the rest of the UK, according to the Ulster University website). International students will pay much more (about £15,000). At the time of this article, there is no information yet for the conditions for EU students after 2022, but there is a special agreement between the Republic of Irland and Northern Ireland to not discriminate against students from both countries.

Visa Rules for EU Students

  • Foreign students who have arrived before the 1st of January 2021 do not require a visa. However, they need to apply for the EU settlement scheme if they plan to stay in the UK to complete their course. Students are advised to apply as soon as they arrive in the UK, the deadline being the 30th of June 2021.
  • Students arriving after the 1st of January 2021 will require a student visa if the course extends longer than six months.
  • The visa application must be completed and approved before they arrive in the UK.
  • The visa application fee is £348 and they must hold a valid passport or another travel document.
  • The visa application, identity verification can be completed using an app that can be downloaded onto any smartphone.
  • If the student has no biometric passport or access to the app, they can get more information from the Visa Application Centre in their home country.
  • Students also have to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge, giving them access to the UK"s National Health Service (NHS). Students pay a discounted surcharge of £470 annually.
  • EU students with a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) issued by an EU member state and are full-time students in the UK can claim a refund on the Immigration Health Surcharge payment.
  • Student visas can be applied for up to six months before the course starts. More student visa information can be obtained here.

What about working in the UK after graduation?

  • All EU and international students can apply for the Graduate Route from January 2021 onwards that enables them to stay in the UK for two years after their studies to work.
  • Those students who arrived before the 1st of January 2020 and were granted status in the EU Settlement Scheme can live and work in the UK.

The Erasmus+ exchange programme will be replaced by the Turing scheme

The Erasmus+ programme is funded by the EU to bolster education, sports, training and youth in Europe. It has a massive budget of €26.2 billion and focuses on social inclusion, digital and green transitions and encourages youth involvement in democracy. The programme supports higher education, school and adult education, amongst others.

The UK fully cooperated with the Erasmus+ programme up until the end of 2020. All initiatives funded before that date will continue for the full duration of the programmes. This includes UK students going abroad and EU students coming to the UK.

However, the Turing scheme will replace the UK"s presence in Erasmus+ from 2021 onwards. This scheme will encourage international participation by offering students opportunities for international placements or exchanges. It is a bid to connect UK universities to some of the very best international universities.

Catastrophic consequences of Brexit for UK universities

  • Universities in the UK will be hit hard by the Brexit decisions, and the dire situation is further compounded by the pandemic and travel restrictions.
  • It is believed that Brexit will cost universities in the UK about £62.5 million per year and about 57% of first-year EU students.
  • Many EU students who find the UK too expensive post-Brexit are considering alternative destinations like the Netherlands, Germany and France
  • The Russell Group (a collection of some of the UK"s top universities) have said that it will be liaising closely with the government to secure the best result after Brexit. Although prestigious universities such as Oxford and Cambridge do not expect to see any drop in admissions, many of the other UK universities are dreading catastrophic consequences.
  • There is further discussion within the government that limiting future immigration may include student immigration. This may make it even more difficult for international students to study in the UK.
  • Although most UK universities hold high rankings internationally, hurdles with future immigration could push top EU academics to alternative countries causing a drop in the quality of research and teaching in the UK. Research funding from the EU is also hugely at risk for UK universities post-Brexit.

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Author: KashGo
Expat Mum in the Desert and content writer for EasyExpat.com

For other discussions, advice, question, point of view, get together, etc...: please use the forum.

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