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“Reciprocate fee levels” after Brexit says UK HE body MillionPlus

An association of 20 British universities has called on the UK government to introduce “fee reciprocity” for EU students once the nation has left the European Union.

Under the MillionPlus plan, HEIs such as Oxford (pictured) would offer EU students domestic fees. Photo: Sidharth Bhatia/ Unsplash

Australian and European stakeholders have voiced support for the plan

In a policy paper, MillionPlus – the association of Modern Universities – suggested that the Westminster government should “follow the example of Australia-New Zealand and the Nordic countries” to make reciprocal student fee deals “both during and after the Brexit implementation period”.

“Brexit modelling suggests a drop of 47% in EU students in the UK”

This should result in a new student classification, a “‘European student status”, instead of including students originating from EU member states in the ‘international student’ bracket, the organisation declared.

“Anyone from an EU nation enrolling at a UK university should be guaranteed a new ‘European student status’ reflecting similar terms to home UK students concerning university fee levels. These terms would be reciprocated by EU nations for UK students studying on the continent who would also pay the local fee, not revert to full ‘international student’ status,” it said.

Building on the government promise to fund British-European research collaboration until at east 2020, MillionPlus argued in its paper that a similar guarantee is needed for EU students’ fee levels.

“Easing instability among universities and students about their financial security means that people are willing to invest time and money in the UK,” the paper reads.

MillionPlus, which describes itself as “the voice of 21st century higher education” and represents 20 UK universities, used HEPI data to warn of a “hugely damaging” decline in the number of EU students enrolled at UK institutions, further warning that modern universities would be worst affected.

“Economic modelling suggests a drastic drop of 47% in the number of EU students coming to study in the UK, with modern universities likely to be hardest hit by such a reduction,” the policy paper states.

MillionPlus cites the recent government white paper on Brexit, in which minister Dominic Raab outlined the government’s aim for “sensible arrangements” and a “common sense” approach to student movement once the UK has left the bloc and associated schemes such as Erasmus+.

“This would be a win-win for both sides”

Maintaining good trading relations, in which student mobility should be included,  “should be a cornerstone of the new relationship” the paper posits.

To this end, MillionPlus suggested following the lead of Australia-New Zealand, or several Scandinavian nations, who do not erect barriers to student movement as “there are enormous benefits to making student exchange across borders easy and attractive”.

“New Zealand citizens are entitled to study at Australian tertiary institutions without requiring a student visa, and they are also charged domestic student fees rather than international student fees,” and vice versa, the MillionPlus paper observes.

It urges the government to aim for a similar relationship with the EU after the UK’s departure, saying such a relationship will be “a win-win outcome”.

“The government should seek a Brexit agreement, or an agreement during the implementation period, aimed at a reciprocally beneficial relationship for UK students studying in the EU and EU students studying here,” said Dave Phoenix, chair of MillionPlus and vice-chancellor at London South Bank University.

“This would be a win-win outcome for both sides,” he added.

“Students should not suffer because of the harmful rhetoric around Brexit”

“This will ensure that UK higher education remains competitive and attractive and that the UK can continue to attract the over 130,000 EU students currently enrolling at our universities each year.”

Education leaders from around the globe have endorsed this message from MillionPlus, including the Australian Regional Universities Network.

“Having specific agreements between some nations on reciprocal student fee arrangements just makes sense,” according to Caroline Perkins, executive director of the RUN.

“The universities of the Regional Universities Network have benefited from New Zealand students studying at our campuses, and contributing to our communities. The arrangement has reinforced the link between our nations,” she added.

Katrina Koppel, vice president of the European Students’ Union, also agreed with MillionPlus’s Brexit solution saying the Brussels-based organisation welcomes any call for a “special status” for EU students and staff.

“European students should not be used as bargaining chips in politics. Continuing student mobility around Europe is integral [to] the development of Europe and students should not be made to suffer because of the harmful rhetoric around Brexit,” she said in a statement provided to The PIE News.

“ESU welcomes the call for a special status for EU students and academics in the UK and British students and academics within EU countries.”

“ESU maintains that study fees are not a sustainable way of funding higher education, and aims for a future with free and accessible higher education for all,” Koppel added.

European Union students currently pay the same rate of tuition fees as British students at UK institutions, including in Scotland where that fee is nil. However, English and Welsh students are required to pay fees at Scottish institutions.

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