Many readers will know that a large part of my work over the years has been to advise parents and students on applying to universities.
The main focus has always been the UK, since my then 20 years’ experience of helping students to gain access to university was a rich resource. Within the last four years there has been increasing concern from parents and students alike regarding the ability to study in the UK and the cost implications post Brexit.
This was a bit of a minefield and to some extent it still is, as the UK government has not yet finalised exact details in many areas, though the mist is slightly clearing. I thought therefore today, that it might be useful to address some of the practical questions parents and young people face around the possibility of studying in the UK.
The easiest area to address is if you and your family are English speaking EU nationals. From my point of view the picture is bleak. Before January 2021, EU students were treated as ‘home’ students in the UK, paying the same fees (or less in Scotland) as the UK based students and having access to the student loan scheme.
The latter meant that parents only had to consider accommodation and living expenses for their child and in most cases this was affordable. The student loan scheme placed the onus on the students themselves releasing parents from taking out personal loans etc.
The scheme was very favourable as it had inbuilt mechanisms to only start repayments at a certain income post degree and would track the lifestyle throughout thirty years, finally being written off if not repaid in full by that time. It is also dissimilar to standard bank loans in that the repayments are calculated differently, meaning actual monthly repayments are very affordable. Students did not require a visa to study as there was freedom of movement across Europe.
From January 2021, EU nationals will require a student visa, encounter higher fees than UK home students, and in some cases the same fees as international students (which could be as much as £15,000 or more extra each academic year) and will not be eligible for the student loan scheme.
This means EU students can no longer focus on the quality of UK university education as the financial implications are now around £100,000 for a three-year course.
This is on a par with many US courses but without the generous scholarship infrastructure that now makes a US degree somewhat more affordable compared to the UK! This will have a direct impact on university income, but also diversity within the student and staff population.
In a February article by John Morgan (insidehighered.com) he writes:
“Modelling kept under wraps by the British government for nearly two years estimates that Brexit could cost the nation’s universities nearly two-thirds of their European Union student enrolment and 63 million pounds ($87 million) in one year, but that the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge will boost their income”.
In real terms, for my work, Brexit has reduced my engagement with EU nationals from some 25 students a year to just two or three. The UK no longer holds the influence it had worldwide, since the universities across Europe offer lower fees, more degrees taught in the medium of English, and easier travel.
Parents seem to be the main driver of encouraging their offspring to exclude the UK universities from their plans. Whilst I totally understand, as an educator I am very sad. I felt a great pride in explaining why UK universities were so good and why life in the UK would broaden their son or daughter’s life experience.
If you are an EU national parenting a teenager who may be interested in studying in the UK, it is of course not impossible and I hold a strong hope that over the years it will become easier, as the government iron out the wrinkles and see once again that the presence of EU students and staff enriches their courses and standing in the world.
The cohort that is only just becoming clearer regarding Brexit are the UK nationals living here on Mallorca. I was interested to find out how the UK rights of an individual would be guaranteed since most of my students are of course under 18 and effectively had no choice but to move to Spain when their parents made that decision; or they may have been born here but hold UK rights due to parents being British for example.
My research has thrown up inconsistencies and large gaps, to which officials respond by saying that the detail is only just being confirmed or will be confirmed soon! But here is the picture thus far (with a disclaimer that the UK government hold the right to change things!)
A helpful assistant gave me the following examples which may relate to your child:
“Bill is a UK national who lives in England until March 2008 when he goes to live in Spain. He returns in July 2021 and starts a course in September 2021. He is eligible for funding ….”
“Stuart is a UK national who has never lived in the UK. (His UK parents left the UK to permanently reside in Spain prior to Stuart’s birth). He is resident in Spain until he arrives in the UK … and starts a course in September 2021. He is eligible for full support).
This guarantee for UK nationals ceases December 2027 meaning all students here will face higher fees, visa requirements and no support through loans. The mindfulness teacher in me encourages us to stay in the present which, for UK nationals is not so grim but I do have a concern that the rules post Brexit will change the landscape of a higher education system that I whole heartedly promoted; access to UK universities will become more challenging and parents may need to look closer to home.