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EU tuition fee assurances sweep across post-referendum UK

In the wake of the UK’s referendum decision to leave the European Union, England’s Student Loans Company has issued a statement saying that loans to EU nationals will be available for current students and those who intend to begin studying from this autumn.

Minister for Universities and Science Jo Johnson tweeted: “UK welcomes EU students". Photo: British High Commission, New Delhi.

"I’m very concerned about the perception that students will not want to come because of the lack of clarity and certainty”

Meanwhile, a number of Scottish universities have assured EU students that there will be no change to their current status as non-fee paying students.

In a further bid to reassure European students studying in the country, Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson tweeted: “UK welcomes EU students. Current students and this autumn’s applicants will continue to receive student finance for duration of their course.”

“We want to reassure them that EU students are an important part to the diversity of our university”

In a statement today, England’s SLC confirmed that EU nationals and their family members who are currently in higher education and assessed as eligible to receive funding from the SLC “will continue to receive these loans and grants until they finish their course”.

Current EU nationals studying in England are eligible for the same funding as domestic students, including loans to cover tuition fees for those who are residents in the EEA for three years. And EU students who have been residents in the UK for at least three years can have access to loans and grants for maintenance.

The SLC also said that the rules will remain unchanged for EU nationals and their families who plan on studying in England this autumn for the duration of their study.

The residency requirement increase to five years (based on previous immigration policy reform) will continue to apply for students seeking a maintenance loan.

Universities Wales have released a similar statement, ensuring loans and grant funding for EU nationals currently studying will be honoured through the duration of their course.

“The rules applying to EU nationals, or their family members, who have applied for a place at university from this August to study a course which attracts student support are unchanged,” it adds.

In Scotland, where European students account for almost 9% of enrolment, compared to 5% in England and 4% in Wales, tuition fee structures differ. Universities are operating under the assumption that the government will continue to cover tuition costs for EU nationals for at least two years.

“Any new funding arrangements will only take place after two years’ time when Brexit happens,” Robin Gordon, head of admissions at Glasgow University, told The PIE News.

Like other universities around the UK, Glasgow issued messages on Friday reassuring current and future EU students that their fee paying status would not change as a result of the referendum outcome.

“We want to reassure them that EU students are an important part to the diversity of our university,” said Gordon.

On Friday, Ian Diamond, principal and vice-chancellor of the University of Aberdeen, issued a statement confirming that nothing at the university will change overnight.

“The good news is we’ve had no concerned calls from students yet”

“I have reassured our EU staff colleagues that barring any unilateral action from the UK government, the ‘Leave’ vote will have no immediate impact on current terms and conditions of employment. I have also assured them of our commitment to working with them to manage any changes that may arise subsequently,” he said.

“Similarly, I have today also written to current EU students and those joining us later this year to reassure them that there will be no change to their fee status. I have assured them that if there is any change during their course of study, the university will cover the cost of any tuition fees to allow students to complete their degree studies at Aberdeen.”

Despite efforts to shore up confidence in EU student funding, Gordon expressed concern that the situation’s ongoing uncertainty will deter students from studying in the UK.

“I’m very concerned about the perception that students will not want to come because of the lack of clarity and certainty,” he said, but added that the university did not start Monday morning responding to concerned phone calls or emails from EU students.

“The good news is we’ve had no concerned calls from students yet. We half expected that would be the case,” he said.

In response to the possibility of a second Scottish referendum for independence from the UK, Gordon said: “A Scottish referendum could create even more uncertainty and would be a cause for even further concern.”

Meanwhile the country’s position in the Erasmus programme could also be at risk.

Jean-Bernard Adrey, director of the Centre for Global Engagement at Coventry University, said the university has been in touch with EU students studying on exchange programmes through the Erasmus programme to assure them that no immediate changes will take affect as a result of Thursday’s referendum outcome.

“We have been in touch with our Erasmus partners to reassure them that EU students are very welcome and valued here and that the university will continue to embrace diversity as a great form of cultural capital,” he told The PIE News.

“I’m confident we have not seen the end of the Erasmus programme which is seen by all as a key mechanism to develop global skills, which even the ‘Leave’ campaign leaders such as Boris Johnson recently praised.”

However once outside of the EU, in two to three years, the UK might have to establish new funding mechanisms, he said.

“It could be that the UK will have to consider alternative models like that of Switzerland where they are an ‘associate’ partner of the Erasmus programme and where the subsistence fees for both incoming and outgoing students are paid for by the government.”

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