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EU students will lose home fee status in England in 2021/22

Short on time? Here are the highlights:

  • European Union nationals commencing studies in England in 2020/21 will be eligible for the same tuition rates and financial supports as domestic students
  • The government has confirmed, however, that this eligibility will end for EU students commencing in 2021/22

England’s Minister of State for Universities Michelle Donelan announced yesterday that EU, EEA, and Swiss students planning to begin studies at English universities will no longer be eligible for home fee status as of August 2021.

Home fee status – that is, being eligible for the same tuition rates and financial supports available to domestic students in England – has been an open question with respect to European Union mobility throughout the Brexit process.

In a series of annual announcements – for the 2017/18 academic year, then 2018/19, and 2019/20 – the government confirmed that home fee status would remain in place for visiting EU students. That eligibility was most recently confirmed for European Union students commencing in the 2020/21 academic year, with the assurance that home fee status would remain in place for the duration of the students’ programmes.

This provision remains for students beginning their studies in 2020/21. But with her 23 June announcement, Minister Donelan has officially closed the window on home fee status for those students beginning studies in September 2021 or after.

“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 academic year 2021/22,” said the minister. “It will not affect students starting courses in academic year 2020/21…It will also not apply to Irish nationals living in the UK and Ireland whose right to study and to access benefits and services will be preserved on a reciprocal basis for UK and Irish nationals under the Common Travel Area arrangement.”

Bad news but not surprising

“Universities would have preferred the certainty of current arrangements for EU students in England being extended for those starting courses in 2021/22,” said Universities UK Chief Executive Alistair Jarvis. “However, it is important to note that EU students starting courses in autumn 2020 will continue to pay home fees for the duration of their course and be eligible for the UK’s EU settlement scheme if they arrived before the end of this year.”

“Our message to international students is that UK universities are ready to welcome and support you through your studies. Whether you choose to study in the UK this year, or in the future, you will receive a high-quality education and learn skills that will benefit you for years to come.”

Higher Education Policy Institute Director Nick Hillman added that, “Today’s announcement will be seen as bad news inside universities…However, it is morally and legally difficult to continue charging lower fees to EU citizens than we already charge to people from the rest of the world once Brexit has taken full effect. So today’s decision is not a huge surprise. Moreover, history suggests that the education on offer in our universities is something people are willing to pay for. So, if we adopt sensible post-Brexit migration rules and if universities work very hard to recruit from other EU nations, it is likely that many of our fellow Europeans will still wish to study here.”

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