How will Brexit affect universities and students? (2024)

What did the EU traditionally do for students in the UK?

Studying abroad with ease

The EU’s freedom of movement rules enabled easier immigration to other European countries, simplifying the process of studying abroad for both UK and EU students alike. Between 1987 and 2013, over 200,000 UK students studied at European universities through theErasmus programme.

The number of EU students in the UK stood at over 140,000 in 2018/19.

Cheaper fees

Residents ofEU nationsare usually able to study in other EU nations as 'home students'. Compared to the fees charged to international students, home fees are generally lower or non-existent.

In the UK, international students tend to pay, on average, £15,500 for undergraduate study – though fees can be as much as £58,000 per year for some courses (at 2020 rates).

Given that most UK universities charge around £9,250 per year, home status saved EU students anything from £2,850–£64,000 over the course of a three-year undergraduate degree.

What did the EU traditionally do for UK universities?

EU staff

Huge numbers of staff at UK universities, both academic and non-academic, have come from the EU. To take just one example, in 2018/19 over a quarter of academic staff at the University of Kent were from non-British EU countries.


The EU gave UK universities a significant amount of money every year. Swansea University, for example, opened a new science and innovation campus at a cost of £475m – a project that wouldn't have been possible without the financial support of the European Union.

While the UK paid membership fees to the EU, the financial return on universities represented a profit.

Research grants

In addition to general funding, the EU also made substantial financial contributions to research in UK universities. Research funding from the EU amounted to around £1bn per year.

Funding from the European Research Council (the ERC, widely considered to be the most prestigious research programme of all) is allocated solely on the basis of research excellence. UK-based research secured over 20% of all funds disbursed between 2007–13, with four British institutions among the ten most successful recipients.

Research partnerships

EU membership also allowed the UK to form increasingly global teams of researchers. From 1981–2014, the proportion of UK research published under just a UK address reduced from 84% to 48% (in context, the US figure was 67%).

In academic circles, it's widely thought that the best research is done by people working internationally. As such, the UK punches above its weight in this area. In 2013 it was reported to have the highest proportion of the world’s most highly cited scientific research articles (15.9%, placing it above even the United States).

This statistic stands out all the more, given that at the time the UK had just 0.9% of the world’s population, 3.2% of global research and development expenditure and only 4.1% of the world’s researchers.

What changed for universities and students after Brexit?

The UK officially left the EU on 31 January 2020, followed by a transition period that ended on 31 December 2020. The following changes have now been confirmed.

EU Settlement Scheme

EU, EEA and Swiss citizens – including family members – who arrived in the UK before 31 December 2020 must apply to the UK's 'EU Settlement Scheme' as soon as possible (and no later than 30 June 2021).

Eligible applicants will get one of two statuses:

  • Settled status is awarded to applicants who’ve already lived continuously in the UK for five years. It allows them to remain in the UK for as long as they like, or even apply for British citizenship if eligible.
  • Pre-settled status is awarded to applicants who haven’t lived in the UK for five years. They can remain in the UK for five years from the date they gain pre-settled status but should apply to switch to settled status once eligible.

Those with settled or pre-settled status get continued access to education, free access to the NHS, free movement in and out of the UK, and permission to work in the UK. Applying under the EU Settlement Scheme doesn’t affect the applicant’s status in relation to their home nation.

Irish nationals won’t need to apply for settled status as they are covered by the Common Travel Area.

Home fee status and financial support

All nations in the UK pledged that EU students could continue to access home fee status and current funding arrangements until the end of the 2020/21 academic year. However, those starting a course in 2021/22 no longer have home fee status or access to the UK’s financial support. This includes students who applied to start a course in 2020/21 but deferred until 2021/22.

The two exceptions are:

  • EU students registered with the EU Settlement Scheme, with settled or pre-settled status
  • Irish nationals living in the UK or Ireland

They will continue to have home fee status and eligibility for tuition fee loans. Irish students who've lived in the UK for three years will qualify for maintenance loans, as will students with settled status. In some UK nations (not England), students with pre-settled status who’ve lived in the UK for over three years may also qualify for maintenance support.

UK nationals (or their children) living in the EEA or Switzerland may be eligible for home fee status and student finance in the UK until 1 January 2028, if they meet various residency criteria.

Visa requirements

EU students arriving in the UK after 31 December 2020 will need visas if they are on a course longer than six months. This doesn’t apply to students with settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme, or to Irish citizens.

The new Student route visa works on a points-based system. As well as being offered a place on a course, students need to meet English language requirements. Students may also need to prove they have enough money to support themselves and pay for their course, although this isn’t normally required of students from certain countries including the EU, EEA and Switzerland.

Universities or higher education providers trusted with immigration compliance can make offers to students at degree level or higher and assess a student’s academic and English-language ability themselves. They must keep records of the student’s engagement, how their English language ability was determined, and monitor their academic progress. Attendance will not need to be monitored.

To facilitate the mobility of researchers, the UK is offering a Global Talent visa that allows recipients to live and work in the UK for up to five years at a time, with no limit to extensions.

  2. Applying and studying in the UK

Health services

Current European Health Insurance Cards are still valid for UK students who wish to travel to the EU, until the date their card expires.

After this, there may be the option of applying for a UK EHIC, or the UK’s new Global Health Insurance Card, depending on your eligibility. In most cases, UK citizens living in the UK are only likely to be eligible for the GHIC. However there are exceptions; for details, check the guidance on the NHS website. In all cases, these cards provide only for emergency healthcare support, so students are also advised to get suitable travel insurance with health cover.

EU students arriving in the UK after 1 January 2021 will be required to pay an Immigration Health Surcharge. Postgraduate students who bring their family (spouse/partner and children under the age of 18), will need to pay this for each of their dependents. EU students who were living in the UK by 31 December 2020 should apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to have continued access to the NHS.

Erasmus and the new Turing scheme

Projects funded under the current Erasmus+ scheme will operate for the full duration of the project, even if this is after 31 December 2020.

Students in Northern Ireland can continue to participate in Erasmus after an arrangement with the government of the Republic of Ireland, however those studying elsewhere in the UK cannot.

Instead, from September 2021 the UK’s new Turing scheme will offer students the opportunity for international exchanges or placements, with a particular emphasis on widening participation. UK organisations are being invited to bid into the Turing scheme from early 2021.

Research and Horizon Europe

It was confirmed on 24 December 2020 that the UK will be associated to Horizon Europe, the EU’s next seven-year research and innovation programme which runs from 2021. It’s not the only associate country: 16 who were associate members of Horizon 2020 – including Switzerland and Israel – are also expected to associate to programme by the autumn of 2021, along with new applicants that may include Morocco, Australia, Canada and Japan.

UK researchers will be able to lead project consortia and participate in the same way as their EU counterparts, applying for funding from the European Research Council and several other bodies. The exception is the EIC Funds, meaning that start-ups and SMEs won’t have access to loan or equity funding via the EU, although they can apply for grants from the EIC Accelerator.

In the past, the UK has been a large beneficiary of EU research and innovation funding, landing nearly a quarter of the grants awarded by the seven-year Horizon 2020 programme. With a research budget of €95.5 billion at stake (plus associate country contributions), it was reported that the EU were concerned that the UK may win more in grants than it contributes to the programme. On the other hand, after the Brexit vote the UK’s success in funding applications declined.

The protocol addresses this by tying the UK in to an automatic top-up, should it win more than 8% above what it pays in for two consecutive years. Should the UK’s funding success rate drop significantly, the first course of action will be to ‘try and improve the level of UK participation’, with the UK’s contribution only being reviewed should there be a 16% imbalance.

However, one of Horizon Europe’s articles states there may be ‘very limited exceptional reasons’ where participation may be limited to member states only, or legal entities established in specific associated or third countries. This has led to calls by the League of European Research Universities (among others) for the inclusion of the UK, Switzerland, and Israel to be included in the list of preferred partners in research and innovation, after concern that they may be excluded from quantum and space projects.

The Horizon Europe programme was formally approved on 12 May 2021, with funding applied retroactively to 1 Jan 2021. Formal associations are now in progress, although there is expected to be no further negotiation to the Trade and Cooperation Agreement agreed in principle with the UK on 24 December 2020.

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How will Brexit affect universities and students? (2024)


How has Brexit affected universities? ›

Since the beginning of the 2021-22 academic year, European students can no longer claim home-fee status or access tuition fee loans and instead face paying international tuition fees. Depending on the university and course, studying in the UK can now cost students from Europe up to £40,000 per year.

How will Brexit affect UK students? ›

It's likely that in future, UK students will face higher fees in many European countries, as they will no longer be eligible for domestic rates. They may also need to apply for student visas, and in some cases may have reduced rights to work during and after their studies.

What will happen to EU students after Brexit? ›

Tuition fees

From 1 August 2021, students coming from the EU/EEA will no longer be eligible for home fee status. This means that instead of paying the £9,250 a year that UK domestic students pay for tuition fees, EU/EEA students will have to pay international student fees.

Will Brexit help international students? ›

3) Post Study Visa after Brexit

Indian students can apply for the short-term study visa or General student visa. Before Brexit, Post study visa for Indian students is 6 months. After Brexit deal, the post study visa for Indian students is extended to 2 years.

What are the negative effects of Brexit? ›

The research estimates that labour productivity will be reduced by 1.3 per cent by the end of the decade by the changes in trading rules alone. This will contribute to weaker wage growth, with real pay set to be £470 per worker lower each year, on average, than it would otherwise have been.

What threats do universities face? ›

Today's colleges and universities face an unprecedented array of challenges and threats. These include enrollment declines, rising costs and student debt, emerging college alternatives, and political interference.

Will EU students still be able to study at UK universities? ›

The EU Settlement Scheme allows citizens of the EU , Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland to stay in the UK and continue to work, study and access benefits and services such as NHS healthcare without applying for a visa. The deadline for most people to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme was 30 June 2021.

Is it worth studying in UK after Brexit? ›

UK universities are ranked among the top world universities and they are highly competitive, not only among domestic students but also international ones. Even when Brexit reaches full effect, UK universities will still maintain their academic excellence and high worldwide ranking and standards.

Who will Brexit affect the most? ›

EU migration or Freedom of movement

The impact of this would be felt most on eastern European member states who have approximately 1.2 million workers in the UK by the end of 2015; the largest groups from Poland (853,000), Romania (175,000) and Lithuania (155,000).

Do British citizens get free university? ›

In general, British, and Irish citizens qualify for home student status only if they have been "ordinarily resident" in the UK for three years prior to the start of university. From Autumn 2021, EU citizens lost their home student status and since have had to pay the higher international tuition fees.

Will university fees be reduced UK? ›

Today the government has also announced the tuition fee cap will be frozen at £9,250 for a further two years - up to and including academic year 2024 to 25, further reducing the real cost to students.

Which country sends the most students to UK? ›

Poland, with 10,755 students, Ireland with 9,740 students, Greece with 9,555 students, Portugal with 8,470 students, and Cyprus with 8,335 students are the other five EU nations (in the top 10) sending the most students to study in the UK.

Is UK still good for international students? ›

International students have some notable advantages when choosing to study in the UK. Some of the best universities in the world are located here, and they offer a top-tier higher education. The UK is one of the top destinations for international students and continues to be a popular choice overall.

Can UK students study in Europe after Brexit? ›

You have the same right to access education as citizens from the EU member state where you are studying as long as you were living there and lawfully resident before 1 January 2021. Read more specific information on living in your EU country.

How badly is Brexit affecting the UK? ›

The weaker pound has left UK households poorer by increasing the cost of imports, resulting in higher inflation and lower real wage growth. The International Economic Review estimates that Brexit has increased consumer prices by 2.9%, and in turn cost the average household £870 per year.

Has Brexit ruined UK economy? ›

A 2022 study from research firm Resolution Foundation found that Brexit had reduced the openness and competitiveness of the British economy.

Who is benefiting from Brexit? ›

There are a great many benefits to Brexit: control of our democracy, borders and waters; control of our own money, helping us to level up across the country; the freedom to regulate in a more proportionate and agile way that works for our great British businesses; benefits for people that put money back in their ...

What are the most common problems of university students? ›

Common Issues
  • Social anxiety, general anxiety, test anxiety, or panic attacks.
  • Family expectations or problems.
  • Depression, lack of energy or motivation, hopelessness, being overwhelmed, low self-esteem, homesickness, loneliness.
  • Relationship difficulties (emotional and physical aspects of intimate relationships)

What is the biggest challenge of the university? ›

10 potential challenges and how to deal with them
  1. Homesickness. One of the first challenges you may face in university is missing home. ...
  2. Transitioning to university life. ...
  3. Roommates. ...
  4. Effective studying. ...
  5. Time management. ...
  6. Budgeting. ...
  7. Relationships. ...
  8. Partying.

What are the biggest security risks universities will face over the next five years? ›

Top 5 Cybersecurity Threats Facing Higher Education
  • Phishing. Phishing is a very common problem for colleges and universities. ...
  • Ransomware. Ransomware is another major challenge facing colleges and universities today. ...
  • SQL Injections. ...
  • Data Breaches. ...
  • Outdated Technology.

Is studying in UK now worth it? ›

Students who have studied in U.K have time and again praised its educational system; they have also had nothing but good things to say about campus life too! Studying in Britain is certainly one of those 'must do' kind of things if you're looking to pursue an international degree program today!

Is it better to study in UK or Europe? ›

It depends. The UK tends to offer shorter courses and is obviously home to some very prestigious universities. But other European universities also provide Masters degrees, often with lower fees and more generous post-study arrangements.

Why everyone is going to UK for study? ›

Their standards are highly regarded, with experts on many academic topics, and they're generally high in internationally university rankings. The British higher education system has been the basis for higher education standards around the world for a long time, with revolutionary teaching styles and modern facilities.

Is it worth studying in UK in 2022? ›

UK is one of the best study abroad destinations with reputed universities offering a diverse range of courses to choose from. Choosing to study the best courses in UK can help enhance your skills and also ensure that you have access to the best job opportunities.

Why is UK a better place to study than other countries? ›

The unrivalled cultural diversity of life in the UK gives you the chance to experience a multicultural environment, meet fellow international students and develop a range of desirable skills that are necessary to be part of today's global workforce.

Which is the cheapest university in UK? ›

Top 10 Most Inexpensive Universities in UK 2022-23: Tuition Fees
  • Staffordshire University. ...
  • Teesside University. ...
  • Leeds Trinity University. ...
  • University of Cumbria. ...
  • London Metropolitan University. ...
  • The University of Bolton. ...
  • University of Chester. ...
  • Coventry University.

Why is uni so expensive UK? ›

Knowing this information may even convince you that the high price is worth it for a good education. University is a heavy cost for students all across the UK, even for those with scholarships and bursaries. The main reason for the excessive cost is the lack of government funding for universities.

What age is university free in UK? ›

16 to 19 year olds

Further Education tuition is free for 16–19 year olds. Students of this age go to college for all sorts of courses, such as A levels, vocational courses, Art foundation and apprenticeships.

Is UNI worth the debt UK? ›

Graduates are reassured that they will earn more on average than those who never went to university, typically taking home £35,000 a year, compared with £25,500 for those without a degree. Around 80 per cent of graduates see a positive financial return, averaging £100,000 to £130,000, over their lifetime.

What will happen to tuition fees after Brexit? ›

Impact of Brexit on tuition fees and student finance

These EU students will pay the same tuition fees for the entire duration of their course. EU nationals who start studying in the UK in the 2021-2022 academic year or later will no longer pay the same tuition fees as British nationals.

Which university is free in UK? ›

Tuition-Free Universities in UK for International Students

University Of Cambridge. Bucking Hamshire New University. The University Of West Of Scotland. University Of Suffolk.

Do EU citizens get free university? ›

Europe remains a popular destination as many European countries offer free tuition at their public institutions of higher education.

Is university free for EU students? ›

University fees in Europe vary considerably - while in some EU countries admission to higher education is free, in others university can be rather expensive. Financial support in the form of scholarships, grants and loans also depends on different criteria.

Do EU students get free tuition England? ›

EU nationals who are already resident in the UK and hold pre-settled or settled status and meet all other eligibility requirements may still be entitled to fees at the UK student rate and to the financial support options available to UK students.

Which UK city has the most university students? ›

The UK's oldest universitiy, The University of Oxford, had approximately 27,150 students studying there.
Universities with the highest number of students in the United Kingdom in 2020/21.
CharacteristicNumber of students
12 more rows
23 Feb 2022

Why do so many Chinese students study in the UK? ›

According to Dr Wang, there are several key reasons why the UK is so attractive to Chinese students: "If you look at the cost, the economic cost for studying in UK in comparison with that in the United States, the combined cost of tuition and living expenses is relatively lower [in Britain].

Which country is most friendly to international students? ›

  • SINGAPORE. ...
  • CHINA. ...
  • JAPAN. ...
  • AUSTRALIA. ...
  • SOUTH KOREA. ...
  • CANADA. ...
  • GERMANY. Boasting a variety of excellent universities like the Technical University of Munich, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Freie Universitat Berlin – and more – Germany is a fantastic option for international students.
2 Sept 2022

How does Brexit affect international students in UK? ›

Tuition fees

From 1 August 2021, students coming from the EU/EEA will no longer be eligible for home fee status. This means that instead of paying the £9,250 a year that UK domestic students pay for tuition fees, EU/EEA students will have to pay international student fees.

Is it safe to study in UK now? ›

Fortunately, students can expect most universities to offer a high level of safety and security throughout their campuses.

Why international graduates are not getting jobs in UK? ›

The Work Experience They Want That No One Has

What no CV, application, or interview can help with is a lack of work experience. There are just too many needed skills that working gives you. With most international graduates now only having academic experience, there is little chance to compete.

How will Brexit affect the education system? ›

Aside from the recruitment difficulties created by Brexit, schools face acute shortages of candidates for subjects such as maths, modern languages and physics, and many graduates are put off joining the profession because they fear ever-longer working hours for lower pay than they might get in a comparable professional ...

How will Brexit affect students studying abroad? ›

It's likely that in future, UK students will face higher fees in many European countries, as they will no longer be eligible for domestic rates. They may also need to apply for student visas, and in some cases may have reduced rights to work during and after their studies.

Can UK citizens study for free in Germany? ›

Everyone can study in Germany tuition-free!

It does not matter if you are from the EU or EEA. This applies to almost all study programmes at public universities.

Will university fees increase after Brexit? ›

No more. From 1 August 2021 onwards, these benefits will only apply to national (local) students. For everybody else, tuition fees will be higher. In some cases, they can be 2, 3 or even 4 times higher (30,000 – 40,000 GBP per year depending on the university and degree type).

Why did university stop being free UK? ›

First, public funding would bring in more money for cash-strapped universities, enabling them to take more students, including the disadvantaged. Second, requiring students to pay would make the system fairer since previously the main beneficiaries of free college were students from middle and upper class families.

Do UK citizens pay less for university? ›

If you're a British citizen studying in the UK you will likely pay less than if you're a non-UK or non-EU student. Besides your nationality, the type and the academic level of your course can also account into the cost of college fees in the UK.

Why are UK tuition fees so high? ›

Knowing this information may even convince you that the high price is worth it for a good education. University is a heavy cost for students all across the UK, even for those with scholarships and bursaries. The main reason for the excessive cost is the lack of government funding for universities.

What would happen if university was free? ›

By negating the large bill of a college education, we could see an increase in the number of students able to attend college. This then creates a more well-educated workforce, a population that has better critical thinking skills, and increased innovation across a number of industries and society as a whole.

Are international students more likely to be accepted UK? ›

Is it easier for international students to get into UK universities? Yes; most universities in the UK are very welcoming to international students and actually have a higher acceptance rate for international students than domestic ones.

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