Government urged to clarify rules for EU students amid fears of tuition fee hike

Eufemia Didonato

The Government has been urged to clarify rules for EU students with settled status post-Brexit, amid fears they could be facing “extremely unjust” tuition fee hikes. 

Students who currently reside in the UK and have been granted settled status are still unclear whether they will be classed as international or home students for the next academic year. 

This uncertainty is causing many to put off applying for future courses, as they are concerned the tuition fees could be up to five times higher than home fees. 

It has been confirmed that EU students wishing to apply to university courses in the UK from 2021 will be classed as international applicants.

And some universities have already confirmed they will be offering fee freezes or additional scholarships for EU students as a result. 

Leicester University was one of the first to freeze fees and said it wanted to “show commitment” to EU students.

Kerry Law, Chief Marketing and Engagement Officer at Leicester University, said: “We know that for many students, the new increased fee structure means that they now face the prospect of missing out on a world-class education at UK universities, unless action is taken.

“We have had an incredibly positive response from students on this decision, and are pleased to be able to offer some stability in what are, for many people, uncertain times.”

But student organisations and bodies representing universities say there is still uncertainty on the rules for students with settled and pre-settled status.

Universities UK (UUK), the representative organisation for the UK’s universities, said “a number of unanswered questions” remain, that could “significantly impact” the choices EU students make.

“The Government must urgently provide clarity on how settled and pre-settled status relates to the tuition fee status of EU nationals beginning a course in the UK in the next academic year, to ensure that prospective applicants have all the information they need,” UUK said.

The UK Council for International Student Affairs said it is currently working with sector partners to seek clarity from the Department of Education (DfE) on the issue.

Sara Khan, NUS vice-president Liberation and Equality, said: “No student with settled or pre-settled status should be facing a fee hike as this would be extremely unjust. 

“NUS is a firm believer in free education, and no student should have to be concerned about affording fees to access higher education.”

Adam Balog, a fourth year chemical engineering student from Hungary with pre-settled status, said the uncertainty has put him in a “very difficult position”.

During the coronavirus pandemic he volunteered with the East Midlands Ambulance Service as part of its community first responders team, and hopes to go on to study medicine in 2021 and ultimately work for the NHS.

“I know many European students, such as myself, who want to actually give back something to the country and do something extraordinary, and it’s just not happening because of (the fee situation),” he told The Telegraph.

“It’s put me in a very difficult situation, whether to go back to my country and receive full time education over there, or just stay here and work and hopefully not give up my dream career.”

The Department for Education was contacted for comment. 

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