There has been plenty of information from various sources worldwide aiming to provide the latest updates on the ups and downs of Brexit – a political event that has created a lot of confusion in the past two years. From alterations regarding trading to changes in terms of defence, Brexit, slowly but surely, will ‘shake things up’ in a drastic way for the residences of the UK; especially those coming from countries within the European Union. So how would this have an impact on international students in the UK in particular? EDUopinions investigates.
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The biggest impact, unsurprisingly, would be on students who are from EU countries. Brexit comes with some major changes in the immigration status for this group and possibly, an increase in tuition fees in the future for prospective students.
For those who are already living in the UK, there will be an opportunity to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme, which will allow you to continue living in the UK after 30 June 2021, if the application is successful. The deadline for this immigration category is 30 June 2021, or 31st December 2020 if the UK leaves the EU without a deal and will be free of charge from 30 March 2019 onwards, or refunded if you have paid to apply prior to this date. On the other hand, any EU students arriving in the UK after 29 March 2019, will not have to worry about a visa or any immigration status if the stay is only 3-month long or less; otherwise you will be eligible to apply for the European Temporary Leave to Remain which offers 36 months to live, work and study in the UK.
Regarding student finance, the Department for Education has officially confirmed that throughout the UK, all EU students enrolling up until the 2019/20 academic year will be eligible for the same tuition fee status and financial support for the whole duration of their course. This applies to both scenarios of the UK leaving with or without a deal; which is in favour of the current flow of EU students joining UK universities. However, there are possibilities of changes in the future and further details will continue to be updated on the Home Office as well as UKCISA website following 29 March 2019, the official date of Brexit coming into force.
For students from the rest of the world, there are definitely uncertainties in terms of any direct impacts Brexit might have on their studies; one of which would possibly be the process to apply for Erasmus programmes during their courses, depending on each university, or any study trips run in Europe. From November 2018, overseas students applying for visas to study in the UK will no longer have to submit original documents for these applications; instead, there are options of either scanning these documents or sending in copies of them. This made the whole process much simpler for international students, however, from December 2018, the government has announced that the immigration health surcharge will be doubled, from £200 to £400 per year.
Furthermore, the government also published its white paper on some proposals for a post-Brexit immigration system; one of those suggested that all students studying at postgraduate level or undergraduate level at an institution with degree-awarding powers will get six months leave at the end of their study in which to ‘gain work experience or look for a skilled job in the UK’. In fact, this proposal has been launched as a pilot scheme at 23 universities in the UK for international master students; before any official change can take effect throughout the country. This offers international students a more reasonable length of stay to use what they’ve learnt in their degree to contribute to the UK economy; it is also an attempt by the government to attract more non-EU students, now that Brexit might lead to a decrease in prospective students coming from Europe.
Despite Brexit and the political uncertainty that comes with it, the UK is still a great destination for higher education due to its diversity in culture and the open-mindedness of its educational institutions. However, it is definitely worth evaluating all information and updates about immigration closely if the UK is one of your top choices, to ensure that these changes won’t become obstacles to your future plan post-study; as well as to consider and compare other destinations, because after all, there is no limit to ‘where’ you can find the right opportunities and achieve your goals.