EU students will still be eligible for UK university loans despite Brexit

After weeks of uncertainty, government ministers confirm EU students applying for places at UK universities will not have funding withdrawn

Rachael Pells
Education Correspondent
Tuesday 11 October 2016 16:25 BST
Universities Minister Jo Johnson said the government wanted international students to continue their contribution towards academia in the UK
Universities Minister Jo Johnson said the government wanted international students to continue their contribution towards academia in the UK (Getty)

EU students applying for places at universities in England next year will be eligible for student loans and grants even if the UK leaves the union, the government has confirmed.

Under the new plans, student funding will continue as before from the 2017-2018 academic year and will be honoured throughout the duration of applicants’ courses, despite previous concerns raised by insitutions.

Universities said the announcement has provided much needed clarity on the matter and must be communicated to European students, whom early indicators suggest could be put-off studying in the UK post-Brexit.

The move will also help reassure universities and colleges over future funding, according to Universities Minister Jo Johnson.

Pressure has since been placed on SNP ministers to make a similar pledge for EU students studying in Scotland.

In a statement, Mr Johnson said: “We know that the result of the referendum brought with it some uncertainties for our higher education sector. That is why in June we acted quickly to provide immediate funding guarantees for existing students and those applying to study this year.

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

“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.

“We are also taking steps, through our Higher Education Bill, to maintain the world status of our universities while delivering students value for money and choice and employers the skills they need to help our economy grow.”

Under current student finance rules, undergraduate students from EU member countries outside of the UK pay the same tuition fees and are able to receive the same tuition fee loans as UK residents.

EU nationals who have resided in the UK for over five years are also able to apply for undergraduate maintenance support and postgraduate loans.

Despite initial reassurances from minister soon after the referendum result, leading educators raised concern of the lack of clarity as to what Brexit might mean for EU students and funding.

The government has since promised that EU funded projects, including Horizon 2020, will be protected while the UK remains a member of the EU.

Commenting on the announcement, union leaders raised concerns that EU students had already been given the impression that the UK was not welcoming as a direct result of Brexit uncertainty, and the changes risked damaging the UK’s status as an international hub for academia.

University and College Union general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: “We are pleased the government has now clarified the situation for EU students who want to apply to English universities for next year and hope the devolved nations will soon follow suit.

‘We don’t believe this measure can undo the damage that various proposals floated at the Conservative party conference last week may have done via headlines around the world.

“The news that the government was also seeking to ban leading foreign academics from advising the UK government over Brexit because they are not British nationals will have also done little to help our international standing.”

Last week it was revealed that researchers at the London School of Economics had been told their expertise was no longer needed if they were not British citizens.

The university denied the claims, insisting nothing had changed for researchers as a result of the referendum vote.

Dame Julia Goodfellow, President of Universities UK said: “Over recent weeks the university sector has made very clear to Government the urgent need to address this issue. It is good to see the Government has recognised the value of EU students and acted positively to guarantee their access to financial support.

“European and international students are a valuable part of cultural and academic life on British university campuses and play an important role in UK towns and cities, creating jobs and supporting local businesses.

“Looking ahead, as the Government develops plans post-Brexit Britain, a commitment is needed to ensure that students, from Europe and beyond, are able to continue to come to the UK to study without unnecessary bureaucratic burdens.

“The UK should be an attractive destination for all qualified international students that would benefit from UK universities and can support themselves to study.”

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