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Brexit FAQs for universities and students

Universities UK is currently working through the ramifications of the leave vote for the higher education sector. We will continue to keep members and all our stakeholders informed as events develop. Please check this page regularly for updates. ​

Updated 23​ August 2016

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

  • The EU referendum outcome will not lead to any immediate change to the immigration status of current EU students or those about to start a course in the coming academic year (2016–17). This has been confirmed in a statement (27 June) from Jo Johnson, Minister of State for Universities and Science. 

  • The longer term implications for EU students who want to apply to study in the UK (ie from 2017–18 onwards) will depend on the outcome of negotiations and what kind of relationship the UK agrees with the EU. 

An immediate priority for Universities UK is to urge the government to:​

  • Guarantee that current EU students and those beginning courses in 2016–17, 2017–18 and 2018–19 academic years will pay the same fees as UK students and have the same access to tuition fee loans for the duration of their courses. This would provide assurances to EU students starting course during the EU exit negation period.

  • Provide reassurances about the immigration status of existing EU students and staff following the UK's exit from the EU and affirming that it is a priority for government to ensure that future academic and student mobility is not impeded by unnecessary bureaucracy regardless of the immigration status of EU nationals.

  • Provide urgent clarification regarding EU students' access to tuition fee loans for 2017–18 and 2018–19.

Will tuition fees rise for EU students studying at UK universities as a result of Brexit?

  • There will be no immediate change to the tuition fees paid by current EU students attending UK universities.

  • It is important to remember that the UK will not leave the EU overnight – the negotiation process is expected to take up to two years, and the EU has indicated that this process will not commence until the UK triggers Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, formally signalling its intent to leave the EU. EU students are entitled to pay the same fees as UK students while the UK remains a member of the EU.

  • The fees that EU students are required to pay in the longer-term will depend on what is agreed as part of the UK's exit negotiations.


Will EU students continue to be eligible to receive loans and grants?

  • Separate statements from across all UK nations confirm that current EU students, and 2016–17 entrants, will be eligible to receive loans and grants to fund their studies for the duration of their courses.

  • EU students attending universities in England and Wales who are eligible under current rules to receive loans and grants from the Student Loans Company will continue to do so for the duration of courses they are currently enrolled on, or are about to start this coming year. This has been confirmed by the Student Loans Company for England, and by Universities Wales for Wales. 

  • Under EU law, students from EU member states applying for undergraduate degrees at Scottish universities are currently eligible for free tuition. For EU students attending a university in Scotland, the Scottish Government and Universities Scotland have confirmed that there has been no change in current funding arrangements and that eligible EU students already studying in Scotland or commencing their studies in the coming months will continue to benefit from free tuition and, for those who meet the residency requirement, associated living cost support.

  • The Northern Irish Government has issued a statement confirming that EU nationals who are currently receiving student loans from Student Finance Northern Ireland and EU nationals who intend to begin studying from this autumn will continue to receive these loans and grants until they finish their course. This includes grants and loans to cover tuition fees (for those resident in the EEA for three years), loans and grants for maintenance (limited to those resident in the UK for at least three years), and some other grants and allowances.

What about students participating in the Erasmus+ exchange programme?

  • Students from UK universities currently overseas on an Erasmus+ placement, and those considering applying to participate in Erasmus+ next year (2016–17) will not be affected by the referendum result. 

  • The European Commission has confirmed that EU law continues to apply to the full in the United Kingdom until it is no longer a member. This therefore also applies to the projects financed through the Erasmus+ programme.

  • In the longer term, Universities UK will be urging the government to seek assurances from the EU that the UK can continue to access this valuable exchange programme.


Will the UK continue to have access to EU funding for research and  innovation such as  Horizon 2020 and European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIFs)?

  • It has been confirmed by the UK government in a statement on Saturday 13 August that successful bids for European Commission research funding, including the Horizon 2020 programme made while the UK is still a member of the EU will be guaranteed by the Treasury. This will be the case even when the project continues beyond the UK's departure from the EU. UUK has responded to the announcement in a statement published on the same day.

  • It has also been announced that all European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIFs) projects signed before the Autumn Statement will be fully funded, even when they continue beyond the UK's departure from the EU. The Treasury has also said it will also assess whether to guarantee funding for specific structural and investment fund projects that might be signed after the Autumn Statement, but while we remain a member of the EU. 

  • Shortly after the EU referendum result it was confirmed by Jo Johnson, Minister of State for Universities and Science and the EU commissioner for research and innovation that there would be no change to the UK university sector's ability to participate in EU research and innovation programmes while the UK is still a member of the EU. 

  • The long term future of UK participation in European science programmes will be decided as part of the UK's exit negotiations. These talks are expected to take up to two years.

  • Universities UK will make the case to government of the importance and impact of our strong research collaboration with European partners, highlighting how EU programmes play a central role in supporting this.

Will UK universities still be able to employ staff from other EU countries?

  • The government has confirmed that there has been no change to the rights and status of EU nationals in the UK as a result of the referendum, and that it ‘recognises and values the important contribution made by EU and other non-UK citizens who work, study and live in the UK’.

  • The UK remains a member of the EU for the time being and the government has confirmed that there will be no immediate changes to UK visa policies for university staff currently in, or contemplating coming to, the UK from the EU.

  • In terms of recruiting EU staff in the longer term, any changes will depend on the kind of relationship the UK negotiates with the EU. However, UUK is committed to highlighting the value of all EU staff, including researchers, scientists and academics,​ and is urging the UK government to guarantee that those currently working at UK universities can continue to do so after the UK exits the EU.

  • UUK is also calling on the UK government to make a clear and unequivocal statement that EU nationals currently living in the UK are welcome here, and that any changes to immigration status will only apply to new entrants to the UK.​ UUK has joined a broad coalition of major organisations and prominent politicians who are urging for this commitment.​

  • Further information on the impact of Brexit on higher education employers is available from UCEA.


EU flags

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