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Time to panic? EU students are not amused by Brexit

Not long ago, the United Kingdom was considered the second most popular study abroad destination for international students after the United States. After triggering Article 50 and voting to leave the European Union, will the United Kingdom need to work hard to maintain its “hotspot” reputation? Out of 2.3 million students who attended UK universities in 2014-15, 19% of them were non-British students. Before the results of the Brexit referendum, a survey by education consultancy Hobson showed that 82% of EU students stated that they would consider the UK far less attractive if it left the EU, and there are several reasons why...
By Danielle Neubauer

So what’s next for non-British citizens?
It is no secret that one of the main motives pushing the “Vote Leave” campaign was the wish to establish strict laws to control immigration and strengthen the British identity as a nation. Globalization has flourished in the past few decades, but some voters made it clear that they want an immigration reform.
According to the UK Council for International Student Affairs, there are currently 436,585 international students enrolled in UK institutions and about 125,000 of them are from the EU.    

If you are one of them, you might be feeling like an outsider now, but there are more concrete implications on the matter. If prior to receiving the referendum results, you thought about settling in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Glasgow or Edinburgh, you might now be thinking otherwise.

At the moment, nothing is going to happen unless Article 50 is officially invoked by the British government. The rest is left to be determined by the deal that the UK settles with the EU.

How will student visas be impacted?

Hard feelings are only some of the consequences of the referendum results. EU students from Germany, Italy, Spain, France and other countries in Europe, have enjoyed the no-border policy between Britain and other EU countries. They are dreading the bureaucratic complications yet to come. To control their entrance to the UK, they may need to be issued a 4-Tier Visa, just like international students are required. This is a short term visa for students over 16 years of age, who have already been offered a place in a course, can speak English and can afford the tuition and living expenses during the study period. This visa includes restrictions on the amount of time you can stay in the UK before your course starts and after it ends.

The problem with this visa, is that it also has restrictions on the allowed work hours for students. This means that the socioeconomic demographics in British institutions like Oxford University, Cambridge University, University College London, King’s College London and more, is likely to change, consisting mainly of those who have an initial budget to fund their studies.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that there will be more jobs for the British people. Many international companies are predicted to leave the UK, due to the high employment visa prices that they would require to assign their staff from the EU. Vodafone and EasyJet are just two examples of companies thinking about moving their headquarters out of the UK due to the decision.

Will tuition fees go up?  
Two types of standard tuition fees are available in publicly funded universities in the UK. One is called “home student fees”, which is currently the amount of tuition for British students and members of the European Union. The second is the “international student fee”, which is for non-EU members, and is twice as expensive as the home student option (up to £36,000 per year).

Non-British students are afraid that once Britain leaves the EU, they will need to shift to studying on regular international student terms, forced to pay double the amount that they do now.

Students from the European Union know that there are cheaper alternatives inside the Union, which they can enjoy. This may cause the amount of students to drop, along with the institutions’ incomes and the financial contribution that they brought to the British economy. 

Along with other universities, the University College London (UCL) has confirmed in an extremely supportive statement that they have no plans to raise the tuition fees for EU students at the moment. The main problem is, that the duration of this decision will only last until we understand what the implications of Brexit actually are. Additional implications of the “Leaving process” might push institutions to the limit, having no other option, but to raise their tuition.

Will EU funds stop for good?
Throughout the years, the EU has played a huge role in funding higher education institutions and providing student loans. Leaving the EU may also mean that the funding will stop. Once that happens, who will cover the expenses for the institutions and for the students?

Students choose where to study based on one big question: can I afford it? Tuition fees, living expenses and the ability to get a scholarship or a loan is crucial to deciding where to study. Many programs such as The Erasmus Mundus course or partnership and Euraxess, both funded by the European Commission might not be available for international students interested in studying in the UK after it leaves the European Union. There are over 798 subsidies offered by the European Commission for its members in multiple fields of study, research, innovation, technology and more. Will the EU members no longer be able to profit from these grants while in the UK? Did the referendum seal the closing deal for all of these offers? Only time will tell, though it is likely to be the case. 

The implications of Brexit are still not at all very clear, but one thing is certain. Things will probably never be the same for EU residents in the UK, especially for the student community. Although many leaders of higher education are doing everything they possibly can to maintain collaborations in science, technology and innovation, there are mounting concerns that new borders will be placed on some of the greatest minds on earth. 


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