How does Brexit Affect International Students?

European Union (originally the European Economic Community) was established in a political and economic union of 28 member states that are located primarily in Europe. Since 1973, the United Kingdom had been a member of the European Union. In 2016, dissatisfaction towards the

European Union in the UK’s political sphere culminated in a popular vote on “Britain exiting” the EU (hence called “Brexit”), won by those in favor of the Brexit. Currently, the opposition party in the UK has been demanding a second referendum claiming that people in the UK do not want Brexit. Whether the Brexit is made or not, it is important for everyone to learn what impact it is going to have on their life if it happens.

The British government triggered the leaving proceedings in March 2017; meaning the UK will leave the European Union on 29 March 2019 regardless of whether a new deal with the EU has been put in place. Other than that, the exact timeline and the regulatory effects are not clear yet. Some observers have even pointed out that the official leaving date of 29 March 2019 might be pushed further so that the UK has a better chance of implementing transitional policies.

With the news about the popular ‘Brexit’ hitting the social media, you as an aspirant for higher education in the UK may be wondering what it means to you. Since all universities and colleges in the UK have been especially considering the EU in various aspects of admissions as well as financial aid. So how those considerations are going to change along with Brexit can have an impact on the EU students as well as the overall international students.

What does Brexit mean for international students who want to study in the UK?

The negotiations between the UK and the EU are already over. PM Theresa May had faced ‘a vote of No Confidence’ for Brexit in the parliament but again gained the confidence recently.

However, if the Brexit happens, several scenarios are possible:

  • First and foremost, Brexit will likely not have any direct effect on students who would now and in the future be considered “international”, i.e. from outside the EU/EEA.
  • It may be that the UK will agree to stay within the European single market; in that case, it is likely that European students would continue to be treated the same way as British students. Most importantly, that would mean being charged the lower tuition fees.
  • In a “hard Brexit” scenario, it would be possible that European students would in the future be treated like non-European international students, meaning higher tuition fees for the EU students than the current. Likewise, this would mean limited access and potentially higher fees for British students wishing to study in Europe. In this ‘hard’ scenario the international students may have the advantage of being treated equally as the EU students.

Whom will the Brexit affect?

As stated above, the immediate effects for international, non-European students are probably small.

If right now you would be classified as an “international student” by universities—as opposed to being a “domestic/EU student”—Brexit will likely not have an impact on your plans to study in the UK.

That means if you are from Asia, Africa or elsewhere outside the EU, you can relax. Your visa requirements, as well as the level of the tuition fees you have to pay, will be handled in the same way they are now.

However, if you are an EU citizen, you are currently treated the same way as UK students. That has previously meant fewer regulations and lower tuition fees. It is very likely that Brexit will change this comfortable situation for the worse. However, it is currently unclear just what exactly the effects will be.

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What will be the effect on tuition fees?

It is likely that Brexit will have some effect on tuition fees in the United Kingdom – but it is hard to predict what kind of effect.

Tuition fees for students from the EU may increase if they are not treated as the domestic students following the effect of the possible Brexit.

The British economy and the strength of the British pound (GBP) also play a major role. Within a year after the Brexit vote, the British pound lost around 15% of its value measured against the Euro (EUR). The economic turmoil brought about by a potential “Hard Brexit” is unforeseeable; it might be that the GBP would decline in value faster than universities can adjust their fees, making studies in the UK more affordable in the short term.

Will EU students need to apply for a student visa?

One of the major issues in the Brexit debate has been the control and limitation of immigration. It is therefore probable that new rules requiring students from EU to apply for student visas will be introduced in the wake of the Brexit.

Are international students no longer welcome in the UK?

There are no questions about not welcoming international students in the UK. Universities and educators have been very clear about this: International students are welcome in the UK. However, laws and visa policies are handled by the government; and the current administration has also publicly considered plans to limit immigration, including student immigration. There may be future policies making it harder for foreigners to study in the United Kingdom. That is why many students are now thinking about other countries in Europe that offer English-language degree programs, like Germany, Ireland or the Netherlands.

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What will be the effect on the quality of study and research?

British universities enjoy a world-class reputation and regularly dominate international university rankings. If immigration into the UK should become harder for European academics, it is possible that talented European professors, teachers, and researchers would be forced to leave the UK, or decide simply not to move to the UK. This might make it harder for universities to fill their academic positions with the most qualified candidates. At the same time, universities in the UK stand to lose billions of euros in research funding provided via the EU.

All of that might have an effect on the quality of teaching and research, but it is currently unclear to which extent the effects will be visible in the short or medium term.

What should you do if you want to study in the UK?

Most universities have a stance regarding Brexit. You can read about the view of a particular university regarding the Brexit on their website. Some universities give guarantees to EU students who enroll prior to the UK leaving the EU that Brexit won’t affect their status with regards to tuition fees. However, no such guarantees have been made by any authority regarding Visa Regulations. The best thing you can do is continue your efforts towards studying in the UK and wait for more updates on Brexit.


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