How Does Brexit Affect EU Students and UK Students?

Friday, 1 Jul 2016

Brexit - Students

The effect of Brexit on EU students wishing to study in the UK, as well as UK students hoping to study in the EU could be highly detrimental. The UK’s recent vote to leave the EU would seem to be at odds with the will of most university students. An exit poll conducted by YouGov suggests that 75% of 18 to 24 year olds voted for the UK to remain in the EU – the largest percentage of any age group. It is not just students themselves that have reservations about Brexit, but also those running the UK’s higher education institutions.

In the lead-up to the referendum, a group of 103 university vice-chancellors signed an open letter to UK voters expressing their concerns about the implications of Brexit for universities and their students. They highlighted the fact that ‘EU membership supports British universities to attract the brightest and best minds from across Europe, enhancing university research and teaching and contributing to economic growth.’

Once the UK is out of the EU, the worry is that the movement of students to and from other EU countries will be curbed. EU students may be put off travelling to UK institutions if they have to undertake lengthy visa applications – and likewise for UK students travelling to the EU.

The funding that makes studying abroad possible for UK students may very well disappear once Brexit takes place. The well-known Erasmus scheme is an EU funded student exchange programme that allowed over 14,000 UK students to study abroad in 2012-13. In the same year the scheme enabled over 27,000 EU students to study or work in the UK. It seems highly likely that the exchange of students between the UK and the EU will decrease dramatically if Erasmus no longer includes the UK.

And what about EU students who wish to complete their whole degree programme in the UK? What fees would they be expected to pay? If their status changes from ‘EU student’ to ‘international student’ their tuition fees at an institution like Oxford University could increase from £9000 to over £22,000!

At this early stage, however, we can only speculate as to the implications of Brexit for students studying abroad. The process of leaving the EU could take at least two years and, in the short term, it is unlikely students will notice much change. Many universities, such as UCL, have already made clear that they will not change the tuition fees required of EU students beginning their studies in the UK next year. It also seems improbable that teaching and research links between the universities of Europe will simply dissolve as a result of Brexit. As the European University Association has pointed out, ‘[t]he Europe of universities will not be divided!’

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