For British citizens, news came recently that the UK would be on the visa-free list after Brexit, meaning that Brits and Europeans alike would be eligible for short stays of up to 90 days either side of the English channel. However, this does not mean that people will reap the same benefits that they do now. Freedom to work in EU countries will no longer be an automatic right, British travellers will face more thorough border checks and more lengthy bureaucratic processes when visiting EU countries. This has longstanding implications for students who wish to study abroad, or even work abroad when they are older.
Part of Theresa May’s proposed Brexit deal boasted putting an end to free movement, a principle that many students rely on to enrich their university experience. An air of uncertainty now shrouds Erasmus programs which are dependent on the continuation of this highly valued privilege. However, the government has promised that future arrangements will facilitate mobility for students, suggesting that students who wish to study abroad would not need visas.
“It is likely that international students will not face changes”
In order to understand the implications of Brexit, an important distinction must first be made between EU students and International students. As it stands, EU students are treated as UK students in that they pay £9,250 in tuition fees and are eligible for government loans. This differs from international students who can pay as much as £20,000 per year and do not have access to the loan system. It is likely that international students will not face changes, but EU students will because Britain is explicitly changing its relationship with the EU, but not the rest of the world. Among the predicted changes are an increase in tuition fees and tighter regulations which could have the effect of deterring EU students. Any reforms will materialise in the second university intake after Brexit occurs in 2020.
“Last year nearly 135,000 EU students studied at UK universities”
According to the Higher Education Statistic Agency, last year nearly 135,000 EU students studied at UK universities, with a large proportion studying at Russell Group institutions. It is estimated by the Higher Education Policy Institute that this number could plummet by as much as 60% in September 2020 due to post-Brexit changes and the dominant press narrative which casts a negative light on plurality and immigration. With international students making up a large portion of the UK’s net migration figure, there are fears that EU students could be seen as an easy target for the government to appear to be fulfilling their promise of limiting net migration.
“More universities are offering courses solely taught in English”
In turn, this compounds the notion that international and EU students are not welcome, a dangerous move considering the both cultural and financial enrichment that they bring to UK institutions. Alongside this, around the world more and more universities are offering courses solely taught in English, so British universities no longer have anglophone courses as a unique selling point.
With many predicting that parliament will reject May’s proposed deal, the future remains uncertain. In the event of a no-deal Brexit, there are fears that the Erasmus program could be destabilised for EU students who wish to study in Britain and British students who wish to study in EU countries. In this case, students would be expected to apply for student visas and may not be eligible to stay for longer than thirty days if the promised, specific measures are not put in place.
“Will people really continue to view British universities as havens of diversity and intercultural education?”
As it stands, EU and British students may be eligible to study abroad under specific, student centred arrangements, but they could still face higher tuition fees and tighter regulations. Although the opportunity to study abroad may live on after Brexit, will people really continue to view British universities as havens of diversity and intercultural education? It remains to be seen, but what is clear is that it would predominantly be Britain who loses out on a rich, intercontinental and creative student population.