Not too long ago, I was a student myself (any other Brighton/Oxford Brookes University alum out there? 👋) Now just a few years later, I am sat here writing about how EU students studying in the UK can prepare for the all-consuming (yet ever-elusive) Brexit.
So, I know what you might be thinking: Brexit is just not something you want to be adding to your 'care factor' list right now. With all the pressure of assignments, making new friends, finding a place to live, sorting out your finances - now European Union (EU) students face even more pressure, as they question their future in the United Kingdom. Well, let’s try to ease some of that pressure – here are the top 5 things EU students should know, before the UK leaves Europe.
1. Brexit general guidelines
The gov.uk website is a haven for useful information, and EU students can start utilising it straight away. This Brexit-ready checklist in particular, lets you fill in answers for a couple of questions then you are presented with the results. Based on these results, you can start thinking about what action to take. In most cases, students can apply for the EU Settlement Scheme, so if that applies to you, make sure you do complete this at your earliest convenience, to avoid adding this extra burden when you have tight deadlines around your assignments and exams! (PS: the deadline for the EU Settlement Scheme is 31st December 2020.)
2. Tuition fees and finance changes
Brexit is happening, right? We know it. (Er, maybe not actually?) Let’s throw in some good news - EU students still qualify for ‘home fee’ status, meaning they pay the same fees that UK students pay when they attend university for an undergraduate or postgraduate course.
Want more good news? Whether or not Brexit happens, EU students will continue paying the same fees for their university course - yes, even if Brexit happens in the second year or third year of your studies! Now, this only applies for courses starting in the 2020/21 academic year and there are discussions currently taking place on the future fee status for EU students who are thinking of starting their studies after that academic year. Oh, and another thing - if you have lived in the UK for 5 years minimum, before your course start date, you might be eligible for a maintenance loan to help with living costs – see more information here.
3. Students, family members and visas
So far, it is all fairly good news. If a deal is reached between the UK and the EU, EU students will not need a visa to stay in the UK if arriving before 1 January 2021. However, if an EU student stays in the UK beyond December 2020, due to course commitments then you will need to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme, before the deadline mentioned above. Now here's the catch: if no deal is reached between the UK and the EU, the UK government will introduce a new immigration rule - European Temporary Leave to Remain. EU students will need to apply online and it will not cost a penny (in other words, free-of-charge!). If approved, you will receive an additional 36 months to stay in the UK.
4. Erasmus+ programme info
Thankfully, not too much will change for the 31,727 EU nationals, some of whom are students that came to the UK on the Erasmus+ programme to study. Those EU students currently taking part in the Erasmus+ programme will not need to lift a finger, if the UK leaves Europe whilst their programme is on-going. EU students will be covered by the Erasmus+ 'contingency measures', which will ensure no disruptions take place. The Erasmus+ National Agency in each respective Erasmus programme country will be in touch when the long-awaited fate has been decided! Though, if you were planning to start your programme after the UK leaves the EU, this might not be a good idea right now, since discussions are still on-going.
5. Ask for help, look for support
In general, most UK universities now have excellent support services for international students. In particular, many are offering workshops and free immigration advice in various formats for their EU citizen students who are just starting, or in the middle of their degree. Knowing where to turn for help could just be your back-pocket secret weapon, so make sure you ask around and know exactly what support you have already in your university's ecosystem. 🙏