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Universities UK renews call for “urgent clarity” on EU students’ fee status

Universities UK has renewed its call for urgent clarity about the fee status of EU students starting courses in the UK during the Brexit transition period (2019-20), warning that the country could see a drop in EU students otherwise.

UUK said EU students are still in the dark about the fee status and financial support. Photo: Unsplash

UUK has been calling for confirmation on fees since the beginning of 2018

In 2017, guarantees were given for EU students starting courses in 2018-19 and covered the duration of the course, even if they finish after the UK’s exit from the European Union.

“It is unacceptable for EU students to be applying without knowing what they will be charged”

UUK said it welcomed the progress made on the phase one of the transition agreements, which brought clarity on EU citizens’ rights and on the UK’s participation in the Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+ until December 2020.

However, according to the latest UUK statement, universities are already receiving enquiries from EU students about courses starting next year, but most EU students and universities are “still in the dark” about the fee status and financial support for EU students.

While the Scottish government has provided such clarity for EU students starting courses next year, universities in other parts of the UK are still waiting for official confirmation, the statement read.

UUK said it has been calling for confirmation on fees since the beginning of 2018, adding there is now an urgent need for clarity across all parts of the UK.

Chief executive Alistair Jarvis said students and universities need to know whether EU students starting a course in 2019-20 will continue to be eligible for home fee status or financial support, and whether this will apply for the duration of their course.

“Students from across the EU, who bring great economic and academic value, are already enquiring about 2019 study, but face uncertainty on the expected financial costs of doing so,” he said in a statement.

“We know from research that the majority of international students start their research about studying abroad more than 12 months in advance of actual enrolment.

“While the Scottish government confirmed this in February, there is now an urgent need for clarification to be provided across all parts of the UK. It is critical that action is taken to prevent a drop in EU applications next year.”

“It is critical that action is taken to prevent a drop in EU applications next year”

In response to UUK’s renewed call, Joanna Burton, policy adviser at the Russell Group told The PIE News that clarity cannot come soon enough for the thousands of EU students currently considering whether or not to apply to UK universities.

Burton said that Russell Group universities receive more than 120,000 applications from EU students each year, with some 22,000 EU students enrolled on courses at Russell Group universities in 2017-18.

“The decision to study abroad is a significant commitment which takes time and planning, and applications for 2019/20 open in just three months,” she warned.

A recent policy briefing by the Centre for Global Higher Education suggested that the distribution of EU students in the UK is likely to become more uneven post-Brexit, with EU students in England noted as “particularly vulnerable”.

Senior research associate at CGHE Ludovic Highman told The PIE the signal being sent to EU students is: “they can pay, we will let them know as late as possible, and definitely after they have applied – because Brexit means Brexit”.

“It is unacceptable for prospective EU students to be applying for courses without knowing what fee levels they will be charged when the spectrum is so wide,” he added.

Highman said it should also not be the case that UK universities only cater for EU students from privileged backgrounds that can afford to pay upfront fees with no access to the UK loans system.

“If we want a special relationship with the EU, it is time to put money where our mouths are and show how much we really are willing to put towards that relationship, instead of just paying lip service to the ideal.”

Currently, there are 134,835 students from other EU countries in the UK.

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