In a statement released on June 23, the UK Council for International Student Affairs confirmed that new EU/EEA/Swiss students beginning their studies in England from 2021/2022 onward will no longer be eligible for Home Fee status or financial assistance from Student Finance England.
Students affected will have to apply for study in the UK via a new immigration system, expected to be implemented from 1st January 2021. Those students will then have to pay the relevant international fees for their programmes. Current students and those beginning their studies this year will not be affected.
In a written statement, Universities Minister Michele Donelan stated: “EU, other EEA and Swiss students, staff, and researchers make an important contribution to our universities. I want that contribution to continue and am confident – given the world-leading quality of our higher education sector – that it will.”
Higher Education Policy Institute director Nick Hillman takes a different view, saying the announcement would “be seen as bad news inside universities.” According to Mr Hillman, these new fee regulations could lead to a decline of EU students studying in England by approximately 60%, which would result in universities being “less diverse and less open to influences from other countries.”
This potential reduction of fee-paying students comes after a recent London Economics report found that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will likely lead to fewer Freshers in the upcoming academic year.
Universities UK issued a statement of solidarity in line with that of the Universities Minister. They said: “Overseas students – from the EU and beyond – should be able to study in the UK with minimal barriers. International students enhance the educational environment in our universities, benefitting all students, and are an integral part of our society and culture.”
KCLSU and Student Response
When asked their view on the issue, the outgoing KCLSU leadership team told Roar: “The decision to remove home status and access to Student Finance England for EU nationals will no doubt impact the quality of experience of our members, for a variety of different reasons including but not limited to student experience, marginalisation and increased expectations.
“In terms of student experience, this decision has the potential to limit the exposure of our members to students from Europe, as well as impacting the ability to have a diverse learning environment.
“Similarly, in terms of marginalisation, this would potentially impact our current EU students in regards to their sense of belonging, furthermore creating a need for the KCLSU to support them with regards to them understanding their rights.
“Finally, there is the possibility of increased expectations. With increased fees, there will come increased expectations, therefore increasing the need to ensure a quality education and experience for students.
“Moving forward, what is crucial is that the KCLSU looks to better understand this issue from the perspective of its EU students, while ensuring that it has a robust plan in place to support its current and potential EU members.”
A Liberal Arts student from the UK, who wished to remain anonymous, told Roar: “It’s something that I knew would happen eventually because of Brexit, but it’s still an unpleasant shock to the people who will be affected.
“I think it will definitely decrease the amount of interest from foreign students in British universities. From my view, as someone who didn’t attend my first choice university due to costs, this will be so disappointing for families who will no longer to able to afford tuition.”
Another King’s student from an EU nation said: “As I am already studying at King’s, and this is my last year, I do not feel I have the right to have a strong opinion, as this does not affect me as much as it may affect my classmates or incoming students. However, I am very curious to see what impact this decision will have on the number of future European applicants and the quality of education provided. It would be logical for European application rates to drop, but it will be interesting to monitor the impact on the quality of education and students themselves.
“Most of my friends from lower grades had already switched their attention to Germany and The Netherlands even before Brexit, but there were still a few who were considering England. Some of them are now rethinking their decisions.”
King’s has yet to comment on the issue.