Comment Editor Marino Unger-Verna on the recent decision to raise European Union (EU) tuition fees from 2021, and how the announcement has been viewed by other King’s students.

When the government announced that new students from the EU would be denied Home Fee status from 2021, I was shocked, despite being consciously aware that such a development was inevitable. With the UK seemingly hell-bent on distancing itself from the EU as the plans (or lack thereof) for Brexit move forward, it was only a matter of time before students were affected.

To discover how higher tuition and a lack of Student Finance England services might affect the future student population, Roar polled 31 King’s students from the EU. Just over half of them have taken out a tuition fee loan via SFE. Of those who did, only 12.5% would have decided to study in the UK without access to a loan. The rest either would not have been able to or would have chosen to study elsewhere.

Poll results, King's EU fees

UK universities have much to offer students from abroad. Over half of the students polled said they chose King’s because it offered the best programme for their subject of choice. Just under 20%, including myself, came to London because they wanted to study in a country where English is the primary language. Many such students would have been unable to make that choice had the new EU fee regulations been in place when they came to King’s.

A geography student at King’s, who wished to remain anonymous, told Roar: “I’m not allowed any government loans from either the UK or my own government. If tuitions were to be higher, the UK would have been ruled out of the options of places where I could go study.

“Increasing tuition fees is a stupid thing to do in my opinion, it means fewer people (who don’t have access to loans) are able to come study and also means studying in the UK is only for rich people. But it does suit the UK’s plan to have less incoming foreigners or simply to bring in more money, I guess.”

Whether this new regulation will generate more profit for the country remains to be seen. A Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) report from 2016 showed that the average EU student brings a profit of £87,000 to the UK, as opposed to the £102,000 brought by the average international student, who “pays higher tuition fees and can’t pursue the financial support as their resident or EU peers.” While the new regulation should theoretically boost profits overall, a marked reduction in the number of EU students attending UK universities could instead have the opposite effect.

Covid-19 has an important role to play in the timing of this decision. A recent report by London Economics warned of an expected £2.5bn “funding black hole.” Over half of this loss is expected to be the result of fewer international students attending UK universities over Coronavirus concerns. Dissuading EU students from studying in the UK may prove to be the nail in the coffin of institutions already facing financial oblivion.

Maureen Blum, a first-year Liberal Arts student at King’s, took out a tuition fee loan in her home country of France to study in London. She told Roar: “I had planned to also do a master’s degree in the UK. […] However, higher tuition fees are very likely to jeopardize my plan as I cannot afford any tuition fee higher than the current £9,250 – especially since French Higher Education is more or less free. It makes my future in the UK even more unsure, which is stressful since I came with the idea of working in the UK but I do not know what to do if I cannot do my master’s degree.

“The new standards will probably not stop people from coming but this privilege will only be given to the most wealthy of us. In this way, it keeps the social inequalities existing.”

Another EU student at King’s, who wished to remain anonymous, told us: “I was able to access university at the usual domestic fee and apply for a student loan as well, but my younger brother who wanted to study in the UK will not be able to do so. Because of that, I am almost certain he will have to choose another place for his studies. I am deeply disappointed.”

While some of the students we polled were able to afford tuition without taking out loans, most were not satisfied with the new regulations. When asked to comment, one such anonymous student told Roar: “Personally, had I started studying in the UK from 2021 I would have still strongly considered the UK as a country to study in and my family would still be able to afford it, but I will have most probably looked a lot more into studying in Dublin where the tuition is a lot cheaper.

“I think it is a great shame for EU students who from September 2021 will have to pay international tuition fees as I believe fewer students from the EU will choose to study in the UK, and look at other opportunities in Europe.”

In Germany, where I’m from, undergraduate programmes are free. Students pay administrative costs annually, but these costs are usually no more than €250 a semester. As-is, I can barely afford to study in London. I chose King’s over these universities despite the price tag which I am still struggling to afford. I chose London because I wanted to study in English, in an English-speaking country, after years in Germany speaking a language I learned as I went along.

From 2021, students like me will not be able to make that same choice. However, while they may feel the effects of these new regulations, they will recover. They will study elsewhere, graduate, and go on with the rest of their lives. England and its universities, though, will bear the full brunt of this decision’s aftereffects. Universities which pride themselves on their international communities will lose many of the students who bring diversity and fresh ideas to their campuses.

On the other hand, with Brexit policies slowly but surely taking effect, it is becoming more and more difficult to justify a continuation of the special dispensation EU students have been granted over international students when studying in England.

To quote one final student, “part of my motivation to come to King’s was because of how international my department was.” Come 2021, how international will King’s really be?

Editor-in-Chief of Roar News. Classics with English BA student. Perpetually caffeinated.

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