As a result of Brexit, the UK government has officially confirmed that the European Union (EU)/European Economic Area (EEA) and Swiss students will lose their home fee status from the autumn of 2021 onwards. The statement was made by Michelle Donelan, Minister of State for Universities:
“Following our decision to leave the EU, EU, other EEA and Swiss nationals will no longer be eligible for home fee status, undergraduate, postgraduate and advanced learner financial support from Student Finance England for courses starting in the academic year 2021/22. This change will also apply to Further Education funding for those aged 19+, and funding for apprenticeships.”
But what are the implications of this announcement? And how will it affect international students who are already studying or plan to enrol at a UK university in the future?
Higher tuition fees for EU/EEA and Swiss students
This is the first and one of the most important implications. Up until now, people coming from the EU/EEA and Switzerland have enjoyed the same tuition fees as local students in the United Kingdom.
At public universities in England, for example, tuition for undergraduate (Bachelor’s) programmes was capped at 9,250 GBP per academic year. In Wales, the limit was 9,000 GBP/year. In Scotland, Bachelor’s programmes were basically free for all UK and EU/EEA students.
From 1 August 2021 onwards, these benefits will only apply to national (local) students. For everybody else, tuition fees will be higher. In some cases, they can be 2, 3 or even 4 times higher (30,000 – 40,000 GBP per year depending on the university and degree type). Additionally, tuition can be significantly more expensive at private universities.
On our portals, students have always been able to check out the two different types of tuition – national vs international – and see which one applies to them. Even now, you can look at the current tuition fees at public UK universities and see what you can expect to pay from next year onwards.
In the example above, EU/EEA students would pay 12,968 EUR/year for a Master’s degree in Egyptology. This will no longer be true from 2021 when they’ll have to cover the full international tuition, which is 29,047 EUR/year.
Of course, in the light of this announcement, universities and colleges could also decide to lower international tuition fees. We don’t know yet if they’re considering this approach, but there will certainly be announcements if anything changes in that direction.
EU/EEA and Swiss students lose access to UK student loans
The second major implication of Brexit is that all students coming from the EU/EEA and Switzerland will no longer be able to apply for student loans from 2021.
This financial support programme has been helping national and overseas students who wouldn’t be able to pay for their tuition under normal circumstances. 2020 is the last year when non-UK students can still apply for these loans. If you’ll start studying this year or have started in 2019 or 2018 and will finish in 2021 or later, you’ll still benefit from the loan until the end of your studies.
The system is quite simple: you apply for the student loan, and if it’s approved, it covers your full tuition fee up to 9,250 GBP/year – which happens to be the tuition limit for undergraduate studies. The money goes straight to the university.
Students have to repay the amount in instalments, but only after reaching a certain income threshold. You can learn more about student loans on the official UK Government Guidance website.
Students who are not affected
The good news is that there are several exceptions. This new policy won’t affect:
- EU/EEA and Swiss students who are already studying in the UK
- EU/EEA and Swiss students who started studying in the autumn of 2020
- EU/EEA students who will arrive in the UK after 1 January 2021 and will start studying before 31 July 2021
- Irish students who live in the UK or Ireland
- EU/EEA and Swiss nationals who benefit from Citizens’ Rights under the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement, EEA EFTA Separation Agreement, or Swiss Citizens’ Rights Agreement. Follow each link to learn more about the agreements and if they apply to you. You can also contact the university where you want to study and ask them for additional information.
To further clarify things:
- If you’re from the EU/EEA or Switzerland, this change will only affect you if you enroll at a UK university on 1 August 2021 or afterward. If you move to the UK after 1 January 2020 and start studying before 31 July 2021, you WON'T be affected.
- If you enroll in 2020 or if you started your studies in 2019 or 2018 but will finish in 2021 or later, you will not be impacted. You’ll pay the same tuition fees as agreed initially, and you’ll still benefit from the student loan.
Check for alternative funding options
You also have the option to see if you’re eligible for a scholarship or qualified for a bursary. Both scholarships and bursaries cover the educational expenses of students based on academic performance and financial needs. The difference between the two is that scholarships are more inclined to fund students with outstanding academic performance, and bursaries are mostly prone to support students in financial need.
By the look of things right now, there’s never been a better year — from a financial point of view — to start studying in the United Kingdom. This tuition policy change might be the final push needed by prospective students who:
- Avoided applying to UK universities due to the coronavirus pandemic
- Decided to postpone their studies in the UK until 2021 or 2023
- Planned to apply for a student loan for their education in the UK
Universities in the UK are well-aware of the current COVID-19 challenges and take all the necessary measures to support international students who are already in the United Kingdom or plan to move there this year.
You can learn more about measures and support programmes offered by the UK in a letter from key Minister Officials, including Michelle Donelan (Minister of State for Universities), Diane Dodds (Minister for the Economy), Kirsty Williams (Minister of Education - Wales), and others.
Of course, you don’t need to feel pressured into taking a decision to study in the UK. There are other ways to enjoy the high academic quality of British universities. For example, you can always check out online Bachelor's and Master's offered by UK universities.
As a bonus, here are a few British universities we recommend: