Students from the European Union will no longer be eligible for home fee status and student loans in England from the 2021-22 academic year, the government has confirmed.
In a written statement, universities minister Michelle Donelan said that EU, European Economic Area and Swiss students who wanted to commence their studies in the UK next year will no longer be eligible for home fee status from August 2021 “following our decision to leave the EU”.
This will apply to “undergraduate, postgraduate and advanced learner financial support from Student Finance England for courses starting in academic year 2021-22”, she said.
Ms Donelan added that “EU, other EEA and Swiss students, staff and researchers make an important contribution to our universities. I want that contribution to continue and am confident – given the world-leading quality of our higher education sector – that it will.”
Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said that the announcement would “be seen as bad news inside universities.”
“To date, EU students have benefited from lower fees and access to student loans that are subsidised by UK taxpayers,” he said. Higher fees and no more access to student loans could risk a decline of about 60 per cent in the number of EU students coming to the UK to study, he said. “If that happens, our universities will be less diverse and less open to influences from other countries.”
However, Mr Hillman added that the decision “was not a huge surprise” because it is “morally and legally difficult to continue charging lower fees to EU citizens than we already charge to people from the rest of the world once Brexit has taken full effect”.
“Moreover, history suggests that the education on offer in our universities is something people are willing to pay for…Above all, we need to make it abundantly clear to people from the EU and beyond that our universities remain open to all,” Mr Hillman said.
In a statement, Universities UK agreed that the message must remain that international students who wished to study in the UK were welcome.
“Overseas students – from the EU and beyond – should be able to study in the UK with minimal barriers. International students enhance the educational environment in our universities, benefitting all students, and are an integral part of our society and culture,” the statement said.
“Universities would have preferred the certainty of current arrangements for EU students in England being extended for those starting courses in 2021-22. However, it is important to note that EU students starting courses in autumn 2020 will continue to pay home fees for the duration of their course and be eligible for the UK’s EU settlement scheme if they arrived before the end of this year,” according to UUK.
Ms Donelan’s statement explained that the change would “not affect students starting courses in academic year 2020/21, nor those EU, other EEA and Swiss nationals benefitting from Citizens’ Rights under the EU Withdrawal Agreement, EEA EFTA Separation Agreement or Swiss Citizens’ Rights Agreement respectively.
“It will also not apply to Irish nationals living in the UK and Ireland whose right to study and to access benefits and services will be preserved on a reciprocal basis for UK and Irish nationals under the Common Travel Area arrangement,” she said.