There are several hundred thousand EU citizens working or studying at UK HEIs, along with many more at other educational institutions.
“The government should give urgent clarification EU students will continue to be charged home fees in 2019”
UK stakeholder bodies such as the Russell Group, which represents top UK research universities, and the Universities and College Union have told The PIE they support the clarity the policy offers, but made it clear that the job is not complete.
The agreement, which was announced by immigration minister Caroline Noakes, makes the status available to any EU citizen who has been living in the UK for five years or more on the date of application. There will be a small fee, but those with existing permanent residence or indefinite leave to remain will be able to transfer this to “settled status” for free.
The scheme will open in March 2019, when the UK official leaves the EU, and will run until June 2021. The burden of proof will remain with citizens, who will have to prove they have lived in the UK for at least six months in each of the past five years and they have no major convictions, but Home Secretary Sajid Javid told local media the government’s “default position will be to grant status”.
But British education stakeholder bodies have expressed nervous praise for the government’s announcement, welcoming the “sincere attempt” and stated default position on EU citizens working at education institutions.
It is not wholehearted support, with UCU general secretary Sally Hunt among others, pointing out that students are not reassured by this statement and “further clarity is needed”.
“The 180 day rule will be a serious challenge for our academic community”
In a statement shared with The PIE News, Hunt pointed out that (aside from in Scotland) there is no currently clarity on fee levels for European students hoping to study at UK institutions in 2019 and further ahead.
“The government’s pledge [is] welcome. Further clarity is needed to ensure academic staff will continue to spend extended periods abroad for research and information exchange without risking their status. The government should also give an urgent clarification to EU students that they will continue to receive home fee status for courses in 2019 and beyond,” she said.
Russell Group chief executive Tim Bradshaw also said the clarity offered by the Home Office was “welcome”, but pointed out that at least 100,000 EU staff members “have waited patiently, throughout two years of uncertainty, for further detail on their post-Brexit status”.
Bradshaw said that “EU students, in particular, will appreciate the flexibility surrounding proof of residence documentation, as many will not have engaged with the UK’s tax and benefits systems,” noting that despite fee concerns, the government statement did not exclude students currently in the UK.
Bradshaw agreed with Hunt, though, that further clarity and support is needed from the Home Office to assuage EU educator’s concerns.
“The ‘180-day rule’, which restricts EU nationals who are seeking settled status from leaving the country for more than 6 months in any year, will be a serious challenge for our academic community,” he pointed out.
He added that the Group is therefore calling on government to make the medium-term travel of academics exempt from restrictions.