It’s October 2017, over a year since the EU referendum in June 2016, and the situation for the UK post-Brexit seems no clearer than it did in the hazy days after the result was announced.
One group of students that is thinking hard about the implications of Brexit is EU students looking to study in the UK. With many of the world’s top 100 universities located in the UK, the university application season always sees an influx of bright international students coming to the UK for their academic studies: something which is celebrated by all UK universities across all of its constituent countries, from Exeter to Glasgow.
In particular, many top London universities are especially popular with international students: Imperial College London is over half international, with 52% of their students coming from outside the UK, according to the World University Rankings (both EU and non-EU).
Those worrying about Brexit wonder whether EU students may eventually need visas to work in the UK after graduation, whether their job prospects might be altered in the UK employment market, and whether tuition fees may increase for their education.
As it stands, however, none of these possible concerns have yet been confirmed for EU students, and many UK universities have rallied together to show their unified support for EU students staying in the UK for their education. With all of this in mind, the future of UK higher education looks bright for EU students.
I’ve made a guide answering some of your questions which should help set your mind at rest about applying to UK universities. The take-home message is: if you are in doubt about applying to the UK universities, go for it! There’s no harm in applying, and it may work out better than you expected.
- Current EU students are in a brilliant position!
Basically, if you’re an EU student currently studying in the UK, you are absolutely fine! The Guardian reported a statement from the Student Loans Company that there will be no change in EU students’ funding while they’re still studying, and that they will continue to receive all of the grants and loans as they currently do, until the end of their courses.
On 11 October 2016, the UK government announced that EU students who began their studies at English universities in Autumn 2017 will remain eligible for the same loans and grants as domestic students. The announcement stated that these conditions will apply for the entirety of each student’s course, even if the UK leaves the EU during this time.
Similarly, Student Finance Wales also issued a statement confirming that EU students currently in Wales, or who commenced studies in the 2017/18 academic year, are also still eligible for these loans and grants.
Shortly afterwards, the Scottish government confirmed that it will also maintain current conditions for EU students enrolled in 2017/18, with no tuition fees at undergraduate level, for the full four years of study. In a statement a few weeks later, the Deputy First Minister of Scotland John Swinney announced the same is guaranteed for EU students commencing their course in the 2018/19 academic year.
The English government also announced that EU nationals who began their studies in the 2017/18 academic year will also remain eligible for Research Council studentships, for the full duration of their course, whether or not the UK leaves the EU during this time.
So, to summarise, for current EU students in 2017/8, the situation is extremely positive. Although there are no fixed promises yet for the 2018/9 academic year, aside from in Scotland, where the four years of fee-less study are guaranteed.
Realistically, it seems likely that the situation in terms of fees and loans will remain the same across the UK during this academic year too, so it’s 100% worth getting your applications in this year.
As a side note, if you’ve not yet considered a Scottish university, it might be worth looking into the beautiful range of universities offered in Scotland, from the festival hub of Edinburgh, to the big-city life of Glasgow, to the idyllic seaside town of St Andrews: there’s something to suit everyone!
- But what about after Brexit?
Although nothing is set in stone yet, the situation for EU students may seem to be a little less straightforward after Brexit, with the possibility that they will have to pay the higher fees which non-EU students currently pay in the UK.
On the positive side, this higher rate of fees has not yet been confirmed, and it is a consolation for EU students that the pound’s fall in value following Brexit will, in all likelihood, make studying in the UK much more affordable for all international students.
- What about Erasmus?
For now, the highly popular Erasmus scheme and other exchange programmes are operating with business as usual, and may well continue to do so in the future, due to their immense popularity with students across the UK.
- Will I need a student visa as an EU student?
With immigration a central part of the Brexit debate, there is a chance that new regulations may be introduced. With the UK potentially choosing to withdraw from existing agreements on freedom of movement, future EU students may need to apply for a Tier 4 Student Visa or a short-term study visa in order to study in the UK. However, even if a student visa is introduced for EU students, it is very straightforward to fill out, with helpful online guides available here.
- Does this mean I’m not welcome in the UK anymore?
Absolutely not! Brexit does not mean this at all: UK universities have come together in their aim to welcome researchers and students from the EU and elsewhere. The 100 universities and other organizations that have joined the #WeAreInternational campaign – which aims to ensure Brexit does not result in fewer international students and academics coming to the UK – are a clear testament to this.
- Will I need a visa to secure a job after I graduate?
Possibly. As it stands, the most common visas for UK jobs (including Tier 2, General) mean that the applicant needs to have a job secured before they apply for the visa, and this may be rolled out to EU students, who do not currently need a visa to work in the UK.
That said, however, it is probable that UK may compromise on the freedom of movement issue during the Brexit negotiations, and could introduce a grace period in which graduates and other EU citizens can search for work within the UK, before they need a visa. Basically, watch this space on the visa situation!
- Keep calm and carry on applying!
So if you’re an EU student wanting to study in the UK, you’re in the all-clear, before Brexit gets properly underway in 2019. But even after it does, with many of the world’s premier higher education research institutions located in the UK, including Oxbridge, St Andrews, Imperial College London and Durham, UK universities will still remain a highly attractive prospect for EU students wanting to expand their horizons and to take on all the challenges – and gain all the employability benefits – of a UK university degree.