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UK government guarantees EU students’ tuition fees after Brexit

Key stakeholders and education groups have welcomed the UK government’s announcement that EU students attending universities in England will continue to pay the same fees as home students in the first intake after Brexit.  But there has been no decision on how EU students in the UK will be treated in the long-term.

Currently, there are 135,000 EU students attending UK universities. Photo: Pexels

The Scottish government made a similar commitment to EU students back in February

In a statement, UK Education secretary Damian Hinds said EU undergraduate students starting in autumn 2019 will pay the same tuition fees as English students and their access to support and student loans will remain unchanged.

“Students from the EU make an important contribution to the universities sector and it is a testament to our system that so many students from abroad choose to come and study here,” Hinds said.

“There is still much clarification needed – what about Wales and Northern Ireland?”

“Today we are providing clarity and certainty on their fees for the duration of their courses.”

Currently, there are 135,000 EU students attending UK universities, and the announcement comes mere days after Universities UK warned that the lack of clarity around the status of EU students would lead to a drop off in numbers.

In response to the announcement, chief executive of UUK Alistair Jarvis said it would allow students from EU countries to apply for places on undergraduate courses in England with “confidence”.

“Students from EU countries can now apply for places on undergraduate courses starting in autumn 2019 with the confidence that they will not have to pay up-front tuition fees and will remain eligible to receive government-backed loans to cover their tuition fee for the duration of their courses,” he said.

“EU students make an important contribution to our universities, enriching our campuses culturally and academically.”

Sarah Cooper, chief executive of English UK, said: “We are delighted to see this statement from the secretary… to EU university students, giving them the reassurance they were hoping for.

“We hope that similar reassurance can be given to EU language travel students so that they can plan future trips knowing they will not have to go to the trouble and expense of obtaining passports or visas for their much-shorter visits.”

Russell Group chief executive Tim Bradshaw said the announcement “could not have come a moment too soon”.

However, the lack of a long-term decision or reciprocal deal on how UK students in the EU, or EU students in the UK, will be treated after Brexit has caused some education groups to question whether the government decision has gone far enough.

“Today’s announcement could not have come a moment too soon”

Vice president for Higher Education at NUS Amatey Doku said prospective EU students are still in the dark when it comes to their education after Brexit.

“Having EU students study in the UK has clear benefits for students, our education sector, local communities and the UK economy. It is essential that they aren’t excluded from coming to the UK by rising fees,” he said.

“Yet again, however, today’s announcement hasn’t gone far enough. Future students are still waiting on any long-term commitment about the future of education after Brexit.

“Students are losing faith that the government can deliver what they need. That’s why we’re calling for a People’s Vote – so that students have the opportunity to say no to a bad deal, if it threatens to limit their opportunity to access education.”

Earlier this year, the Scottish government made a similar commitment to EU students starting in Scottish universities in autumn 2019.

UKCISA chief executive Dominic Scott agreed with Doku that there is still much clarification needed from the government on future relations, and indeed other parts of the UK education system.

“There is still much clarification needed – what about Wales and Northern Ireland?  What about students from EEA (as opposed to EU) countries?  What about dependants from either EU or EEA countries?,” he asked.

“But at least we (and students) now have certainty for both fees and student support (for England and Scotland) and will be pushing for further news on elsewhere and other categories as soon as possible,” Scott told The PIE News.

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