Brexit; or the process of the UK leaving the European Union, is a daunting situation for most because people know so little about it and what it can mean for them, even those within our governments. With so many different sources proposing different conclusions to the Brexit scenario, it can be difficult to understand the situation, but here are the facts:
The British government commenced the leaving process and the encompassing negotiations for leaving terms with the EU at the beginning of March last year. Talks are still on-going between European leaders though are aimed to be concluded by 29 March 2019; the planned leaving departure date of the United Kingdom from the EU and the end of negotiations.
Until then the majority of UK legislation will remain the same, including immigration and education laws for those who may still be anxious about studying abroad as the UK will still be a member of the European Union. This means that for those starting their university education in the 2017/2018 year as well as those in 2018/2019 their student finances, fees and funding will remain unchanged prior to Brexit. Furthermore, the UK government have promised that EU students that have already started university by the official leaving deadline will not be affected at all by governmental action. Recently English, Welsh and Northern Irish, as well as Scottish governments also confirmed that EU students starting in the 2019/2020 year would also remain unaffected.
However, past this, circumstances are unsure. In the long term the way things turn out will be dependent on whether the UK opts for a Hard Brexit, with stricter laws on EU trading and hence the free movement of Europeans into the country, or a Soft Brexit, which would allow for more free movement, but only of certain people. The criteria of which people would be allowed to come and go is not yet fully understood, although this will likely be to do with employment, or if people have lived in the UK before Brexit for extended periods of time.
In terms of studying in the UK, EU students will likely be required to pay higher tuition fees similar to those paid by non-EU international students, although scholarships and bursaries offered by the universities themselves will differ amongst institutions. They may also be required to apply for a student residence permit for extended study visits, similar to procedure in Norway. In a more austere scenario, future EU students may need to apply for a Tier 4 student visa or a short-term study visa in order to study in the UK. There could also be more widespread changes to the current student visa system, affecting all international students. Ex-home secretary Amber Rudd announced several consultations on student visas, in efforts to reduce overall immigration numbers. She outlined a possible two-tier system, in which “tougher rules” would apply to students enrolling in “lower quality courses” compared to degrees like Mathematics, Physics and Computing, although this proposition has been heavily criticised.
Universities themselves continue to lobby for existing research partnerships between UK and EU institutions to remain, maintaining the stance that both EU and international students and staff will be welcomed to the UK with open arms.
It is important to remember that most of this information on future policy is mostly speculative. It is advised that you should listen for and wait until the Brexit deadline to hear more information on how things may go and contact prospective universities for further details.