The word ‘Brexit’ has become synonymous with uncertainty and fear – particularly over what will occur when Britain finally exits out of the EU on 31st January 2020, providing we have an agreement negotiated. Seven months have passed since the original leaving date of the 29th of March, 2019, and up and down the country, universities and students are awaiting what will happen to their study abroad programmes and funding when we leave the EU for good.
The UK has been a part of the European Union since 1973, the monetary body in which 28 member states delegate rules and laws together and enforce a partnership. Since it joined the EU forty-six years ago, the UK has reaped open border access, i.e. visa free travel to most European countries and the ability to study abroad or work. But when the official withdrawal begins, funding to such fundamental and enriching programmes could cease to exist.
Study abroad programmes are key to students studying a language where they can learn in its native country for a year, and get the chance to explore its culture. They can also boost employability and provide new skills for students to learn. Aside from languages students, a lot of universities offer study abroad programmes through many of their degree pathways, for students to experience something truly different.
Since the inception of study abroad programmes in 1987, more than 231,000 students have experienced studies and work placements within the EU. Full Fact, the UK’s fact-checking charity revealed that over 14,000 British students studied abroad in 2012/13. There is no available data for recent years, but considering that studying abroad was a popular choice for students seven years ago, it is likely that this figure is much higher today.
For the 19-20 academic year, the funding for study abroad programmes have been guaranteed
Most students access funding and the opportunity to go on year abroad programmes through Erasmus, an exchange programme that operates throughout Europe. It is designed to provide students with a ‘global education’ according to the Erasmus website and allows students to explore countries they may have never considered to do so. Students can access funding and grants to ensure they are able to experience a fulfilling experience, allowing students from low income families to partake. Should the UK leave without a deal, Erasmus funding will cease, and the organisation will have to make a special claim to ensure future funding.
For the 19-20 academic year, the funding for study abroad programmes has been guaranteed due to the delay of Brexit. However, any years beyond this rely on a deal agreed by Britain and the EU. This could mean several things for funding – for example, the UK could pay to access funding for students through Erasmus, and ensure that movement through the EU does not impose a huge cost on those studying.
It is entirely possible that both the UK and EU may not form a special partnership upon Britain’s exit
In addition, it is also largely dependent on individual academic institutions and whether or not they could form their own alliance with European countries to provide funding and opportunities for students. This could affect universities with low endowment and funding if the cost of studying abroad is not subsidised by the government.
Most study abroad programmes allow UK students to pay a reduced tuition fee to their home university whilst they study or work in the EU country they have chosen. It is entirely possible that both the UK and EU may not form a special partnership upon Britain’s exit, and it could mean that students from the UK pay international student fees in the EU.
It is clear that study abroad programmes are fundamental to learning
The University of Nottingham is committed to assisting students with the opportunity of a lifetime, especially with the decision over Brexit. Releasing this statement, the university states “The University has made a commitment to continue providing outgoing student mobility and exchange programmes through the Erasmus+ scheme (or an alternative to the Erasmus+ scheme) until the 2021/22 academic year, regardless of whether Erasmus+ funding from the UK government continues beyond Brexit.”
While this information is only limited to one university and is undoubtedly uncertain over future year abroad studies, Nottingham’s stance on providing students with the opportunity to study overseas in Europe after the EU exit shows that the programme is beneficial and such drastic measures could lead to the university seeking other means.
It is clear that study abroad programmes are fundamental to learning, especially for those completing a degree with a language. Students are able to explore the EU without such financial constrains and worries, with the added flexibility of no visa restrictions.
With the Brexit departure date having been revised, from 31st October 2019 to 31st January 2020, there remains to be seen a concrete plan for higher education. Students currently on their year abroad do not have to worry, but those in forthcoming years will have to anticipate what their future holds.
Sana Fatima Khan
For more content including uni news, reviews, entertainment, lifestyle, features and so much more, follow us on Twitter and Instagram or like our Facebook page for more articles and information on how to get involved!