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UK: EU student funding extended through 2017

EU students applying to enrol at an English or Welsh higher or further education institutions in 2017 will have access to student funding for the duration of their course, the universities minister and Student Finance Wales have announced. Scotland has yet to announce whether students will have access to this funding, but the country’s HE sector has called for a similar guarantee.

The announcement "will provide important stability for both universities and students", Universities Minister Jo Johnson said. Photo: Flickr/British High Commission, New Delhi.

"This is a ray of sunshine in what has otherwise been a pretty bleak start to the month"

Universities Minister Jo Johnson’s announcement means that EU students at English universities will not only continue to pay domestic fees, but will also have access to student loans and grants – even if the UK leaves the EU during that time.

Johnson acknowledged that the Brexit referendum “brought with it some uncertainties for our higher education sector” and said the move will give universities and colleges some clarity over funding.

“International students make an important contribution to our world-class universities, and we want that to continue”

“International students make an important contribution to our world-class universities, and we want that to continue,” he said.

“This latest assurance that students applying to study next year will not only be eligible to apply for student funding under current terms, but will have their eligibility maintained throughout the duration of their course, will provide important stability for both universities and students.”

EU students, who are all charged domestic student fees, are eligible to receive undergraduate tuition fee loans if they have lived in the European Economic Area for at least 3 years before they begin their studies.

They can also apply for undergraduate maintenance support and master’s loans if they have lived in the UK for five years.

“This is really excellent news, for institutions and for students – and a ray of sunshine in what has otherwise been a pretty bleak start to the month (given other statements by the government on controlling international student numbers),” Dominic Scott, CEO of the UK Council for International Student Affairs, told The PIE News.

Julian Gravatt, assistant chief executive at the Association of Colleges, also welcomed the announcement, saying it is “reassuring to prospective students and helpful to colleges, especially as they have already started recruiting for September 2017″.

“The EU exit negotiations create lots of uncertainty about the future so it is helpful to have some short-term certainty,” he said.

Shortly after Johnson’s announcement, Student Finance Wales issued a statement saying it intends to continue providing loans and grants to EU students at Welsh universities beginning their courses in 2017, under regulations that are being drafted at the moment.

Meanwhile in Scotland, a coalition of bodies representing students, staff and higher education institutions – NUS Scotland, UCU Scotland and Universities Scotland – is lobbying the Scottish government to guarantee funding for students applying to study at Scottish universities and colleges from 2017.

“This confirmation from the UK government is overdue but it is welcome news,” commented Alastair Sim, director of Universities Scotland.

“Applicants from across the EU have been applying to university [in Scotland] since 5 September and until now neither they, nor universities, have had any certainty on their funding status if the UK exits the EU during their degree.”

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