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What Does Brexit Mean for Students?

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On June 23, 2016, the UK public voted to leave the European Union. What this actually meant in terms of logistics was only recently revealed, as a Brexit deal was still being negotiated and the UK was going through a transition period. 

On December 31, 2020, the UK formally left the EU with a withdrawal agreement in place.

Brexit means significant changes for international students looking to study in the UK and UK students looking to study in the EU. These include changes to tuition fees, obtaining student visas and finding work after graduation.

Below, we’ve answered a few of the questions you might be wondering about.

Will EU students need to apply for student visas?

If you’re already studying in the UK:
If you’re a citizen of the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland and were living in the UK on or before December 31, you’ll need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) by June 30, 2021. 

This scheme will enable you to continue to work, study and access benefits and services such as the NHS healthcare on the same basis as you currently do.

Students should apply to the EUSS even if they don’t intend to stay in the UK long term.

To apply to the scheme, you’ll need to prove that you haven’t been absent from the UK for more than six months in any 12-month period.

However, if you’ve had to move outside of the UK because of COVID-19, this counts as an extenuating circumstance and you should still be eligible to apply for the EUSS.

Similarly, if you would be studying in the UK but have had to start your course online in your home country due to the pandemic, you will also be eligible to apply, as long as you arrived in the UK by December 31, 2020. 

If you’re starting a course in the UK on or after January 1, 2021:

If you’re from the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland and are planning to study in the UK at any point after January 1, 2021, you will not be able to apply for the EU settlement scheme unless you moved to the UK before December 31, 2020.

If you aren’t eligible to apply for the EUSS, you will need to apply for a student visa, which you can do through the new streamlined Student route. You can apply for this visa up to six months before your course starts.

It’s worth noting, however, that if you’ll only be studying in the UK for six months or less, you won’t need a student visa, as long as you are studying at an accredited institution.

To apply for a student visa, you will need to be studying at an institution that can act as a licensed student sponsor. Find out whether your institution is eligible here. Students must be issued a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) by their sponsor before making an application to the Student route. 

To apply, you will be required to pay a £348 (approx. US$475) application fee as well as an Immigration Health Surcharge costing £470 per year (approx. US$640). This will give you access to NHS healthcare services.

Apply for a UK student visa here.

Will tuition fees and financial aid change?

Students starting courses in the UK BEFORE August 1 2021:
If you are an EU, EEA-EEFT or Swiss student currently on a course in the 2020/21 academic year, you will be able to claim student finance for the remainder of your course as long as you meet the residency requirements. 

Starting a course in the UK before August 1, 2021 will give you ‘home fee status’ meaning you will pay the same tuition fees as students from the part of the UK where your university is located.

Students starting courses in the UK after August 1, 2021: 

Students from the EU, EEA-EEFT or Switzerland starting courses in England, Scotland or Wales after August 1, 2021 will no longer be eligible for student loans. Each university will set its own fees for EU students which may differ from standard international fees. 

You will need to check with your university to find out more information about the fees they charge as it will vary across universities. If you need financial help with tuition fees, scholarships to study in the UK will be available. 

How will UK students be affected?

Starting your course in the EU before January 1, 2021:

If you were living in the EU by December 31, 2020 you will be eligible for the same support as students from the EU member state you are studying in. This includes tuition fees.

For more information, talk to your university to check the details of your entitlements. 

Starting your course in the EU from January 1, 2021:

If your course in an EU member state begins after December 31, 2020, you will not be able to claim financial support from Student Finance England and may need to pay different fee rates.

Check with your institution to find out the full details of tuition fees and available financial support.

Is ERASMUS + continuing in the UK?

In short, no, the UK will no longer be participating in the Erasmus exchange program.

The UK will instead be replacing Erasmus with their own scheme, the Turing scheme, named after mathematician Alan Turing and beginning in 2021.

The government has said that this scheme will be similar to Erasmus but will also target students from disadvantaged backgrounds and will include countries across the world, not just in the EU.

The UK’s Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “We now have the chance to expand opportunities to study abroad and see more students from all backgrounds benefit from the experience.

“We have designed a truly international scheme which is focused on our priorities, delivers real value for money and forms an important part of our promise to level up the United Kingdom.”

Will EU nationals need a visa to work in the UK?

All international students, including EU citizens will be eligible to apply for the UK’s new Graduate Route. This post-study visa enables you to stay and work in the UK for up two years after graduation. If you’ve completed a masters this rises to three years.

If you arrive in the UK before January 1, 2021, and you successfully apply to the EU Settlement Scheme, you will be able to live and work in the UK as part of your status.

This article was updated on January 7th 2021 to reflect the changes made after the UK left the EU.

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Written by Laura Bridgestock
The former editor of TopUniversities.com, Laura oversaw the site's editorial content and student forums. She also edited the QS Top Grad School Guide and contributed to market research reports, including 'How Do Students Use Rankings?'

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There are some mistakes in the article. So please review them. First of all, the UK has never joined the Schengen Treaty. The freedom of movement it's one of the freedom market established by the EEC, than EC and now EU treaties. We are basically guaranteed for freedoms of movement...goods, capitals, services, and "workers". Art. 47 TFUE. (http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=457).

The EU has stated that none of them would be left out if the UK would like to trade in the internal EU market. At the moment, we are fully entitled to find work and of course "move before getting a job offer" even in Switzerland and Norway (these two countries are not part of the EU anyway). Of course it's not clear if the UK is going to left the EU. Anyway the article does not depict what is the real image of our European system.

Hey Paolo, I'm a UK student looking to study in Sweden or Denmark, whilst we are still an EU State I am entitled to free university fees though I am concerned as to what I may be expected to pay when we leave, if we leave 2 years after October of this year then that will be 1 month into my second year at university. I understand at this point that very few people know what is likely to happen but I was hoping maybe you could let me know what changes i should expect. As it stands once I am no longer an EU citizen i will pay fees similar to the UK but i will not be eligible for a student loan, this is my issue. Thanks

Hi Louis. Well, If I were you I would join a UK uni for one giant reason. At the moment our degrees are mutually recognized as we have a system of fair credit generally know as "mutual recognition of the country of origin". After Brexit, It would be possible that your degree would not qualify you for certain professions (such as being a doctor, a lawyer an engineer etc). That's the real meaning of BREXIT. A real disaster for both parties. Anyway, wort sort of degree you would like to take?

For the fees, well It rather depends on the agreements. I am looking forward to hearing from you.


Hi Paolo. Thanks for your comments, and apologies for the misleading mention of the Schengen Treaty - we've amended that sentence now. You're right that no one yet knows what will happen, or even if the UK will end up leaving the EU entirely. My personal hope is that very little will change in terms of the ease of movement between the UK and other European nations, but in the wake of the 'leave' vote, it does seem likely that additional controls will be introduced.

Hi Laura. Thank you very much. Anyway, It seems that European would be guaranteed. In the worst cases we need to apply for a Visa, but I am quite sure It would not be happen as the EU is quite determined on keeping the freedom of movement. As I said before, we are entitled to enter even in Swiz and Norway without restrictions. There also need to guarantee the UK students here which are so consistent in number. I bet your article illustrates the worst case. However, it is reasonable!