Will the rise in some university course fees after Brexit result in a drastic fall of nearly 2 in 3 international students from Europe applying to study in the UK? That’s the prediction from some of the educational establishments who say they are drawing up lists of courses that could face closure after 29th March 2019, the date that the UK is set to leave the EU.
Current providers of homestay accommodation or householders with a spare room thinking of hosting an international student may also be wondering what the future of the rent a room scheme will be, post-Brexit. Currently, international students make up nearly one fifth (18 per cent) of all students in UK higher education.
In the two years since the EU Referendum in June 2016, concerns have constantly been raised over whether tuition fees and visa restrictions will simply put EU students off from applying to continue their higher education in the UK.
From 11th January 2018, under changes to the Immigration Rules, Tier 4 rules now provide an option for students to study part-time courses in the UK if the course leads to a qualification at RQF level 7 or SCQF 11 and above, and if the sponsor is a Higher Education Institution (HEI). However, students studying on part-time courses are no longer permitted to work in the UK – including on a work placement – nor extend their Tier 4 visa from within the UK.
Homestay providers of rooms for the often younger English language students would have been encouraged to hear that the minimum age to apply as a short-term student was reduced from 18 to 16. The change means that students aged 16 and over will be eligible to come to the UK for the longer period of 11 months in order to study an English language course. It will also allow short-term students to stay for up to 30 days after the course has ended.
Fears were recently further stoked by a recent report from the Higher Education Policy Institute think-tank, which predicted that student numbers would drop by nearly two thirds (60 per cent). Currently, students from EU member countries pay the same £9,250 undergraduate fees as UK students and are also able to take out a government loan. After Brexit, the arrangement will stop and instead, they will be treated like international students from China or India and will be required to pay fees of up to £20,000, which are charged by some courses. At the same time, access to taking out a government loan will also be axed.
It should be noted that the think-tank report was issued before the figures from UCAS, the applications clearing house, showed a total of 43,500 EU students applied to study in the UK on Further Education courses due to start in Autumn 2018 – the second highest number recorded. In 2017, nearly 135,000 EU students studied at UK universities.
Previously, The British Council confirmed that university students from the EU, and those applying to courses starting in 2017–18 and 2018-19, will not see any changes to their loan eligibility or fee status. The guarantee would apply for the full duration of the course, even if the course finishes after the UK has left the EU.
But will university fee rises prevent applications by nearly 2 in 3 students from the EU after 2019, as predicted?
The UK is still able to participate in Erasmus+ (the EU scheme combining education, training, youth and sport) until the end of the programme in 2020 and also allow funding until the end of the academic year 2020/21.
However, the reality is that the fees required to be paid by EU students starting courses at UK universities 2019–20 onwards are yet to be agreed as part of the UK’s exit negotiations. Several vice-chancellors are calling upon the government to “strike a deal”, which would allow universities to charge EU students the same fees as their UK counterparts. They say that EU students who choose to study in the UK are often of a very high calibre and help to maintain quality standards.
If fees do generally rise, the post Brexit era could see homestay accommodation providers play an even more crucial role in educational and cultural exchange. By providing an affordable all-in alternative to halls of residence and costly private landlords, a hosted homestay enables young EU students to still have that vital stepping stone to the UK, and experience a fuller, richer education and travel experience.