The Guardian is reporting that charging EU citizens full international student fees to study in England risks “pulling up the drawbridge” after Brexit, higher education leaders and opposition parties have warned, calling on the government to clarify its policy.
Although it has long been assumed that EU students would lose access to loans and pay higher tuition fees after Brexit, a report in Buzzfeed raised fears that the higher fees could soon be imposed on EU students who start courses after the UK’s exit.
Nick Hillman, the head of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said: “Ever since the referendum, it’s been highly likely that EU students would come to face the higher fees charged to those from other countries. Morally, it would be exceedingly hard to defend charging richer Germans less than poorer Indians if we are not in the EU.
“But fee levels are only part of the picture. EU students can currently take out loans with the Student Loans Company to pay their fees and the loans don’t need to be repaid until later on. Losing access to the loans matters as much as the headline fee, because suddenly they will have to find the money upfront.”
Since the referendum in 2016, the government in England has extended the current agreement of reciprocal fees each year, guaranteeing access to loans and domestic tuition fees for the duration of a degree course.
The DfE is developing a new immigration policy for post-Brexit study, including for students from the EU, who currently have no visa restrictions. But if the UK remains in the EU after next autumn, then pressure will grow on the DfE to extend the policy for at least a further year.
Both Labour and Change UK condemned the change as likely to deter EU students, with Change UK’s education spokeswoman, Ann Coffey, saying: “This is another example of Brexit damaging both our public services and our economy.”
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