After last month’s Brexit vote in the UK, the world of higher education, along with many other sectors, has been forced to consider what the consequences of a break from Europe may be. Throughout the period leading up to the referendum, it was clear that many university management teams and teaching staff were keen to remain, pointing out the benefits of EU membership for home and overseas students. Now they are seeking answers from government about how the inevitable changes will impact universities, their academic staff and students, plus looking for assurances about the future of British education away from the EU.
What is the long-term plan?
Unfortunately, it’s clear that there is no present long-term plan, leaving everyone connected to higher education with little indication of what could happen in future. The current politic situation in the UK alone is complex, but with the added issue of the exit process and the need to create new policies surrounding EU postgraduate study, it’s unlikely that there will be any concrete statement delivered soon. This means the UK’s 125,000 EU students, along with 43, 000 academics from the EU who work in UK universities, have many uncertainties.
What is the impact of the referendum result?
What we do know is that nothing is scheduled to happen right now. Many university leaders, like the University of Hertfordshire Vice-Chancellor, Quintin McKellar, have moved to reassure their current European Union students and applicants, confirming the referendum result will not immediately impact on an individual’s ability to apply for tuition fee loans, the cost of UK study, or immigration status. Nevertheless it is clear from the statement released by Jo Johnson, Minister of State for Universities and Science, that this could be liable to change as the UK withdrawal is actioned. On the subject of EU Nationals studying in the UK he confirmed that current students and those enrolled for the forthcoming year would not be affected, but added that: “Further future funding arrangements with the EU will be determined as part of the UK’s discussions on its membership and we will provide what updates and clarity we can.”
With no firm information on future funding, applying to study on a postgraduate course right now would be the most secure course of action for EU students. By committing to a masters degree at a UK university that begins either this year or next, you’ll still be considered a Home Student, because you’re an EU National. This entitles you to much lower fees than those charged to international students. Moreover, you’ll benefit from the current freedom of movement rules that apply to all European countries, making the process of immigration far easier than it may be post-Brexit.
Demand for postgraduate education is always high and the impending changes are unlikely to alter that, but the costs involved could increase. That means if you’re thinking about applying for a UK masters program that begins this year or next, you definitely have the advantage, both financially and in terms of your residency status.