EU students in the UK are currently eligible for home fee status and financial support. Guarantees were given last year for EU students starting courses in 2018-19 and covered the duration of the course, even if that finishes after the UK's exit from the European Union.
Although universities are already receiving enquiries from EU students about courses starting next year – the UCAS search tool for 2019 entry is now live and students can begin preparing their applications – most EU students and universities are still in the dark about the fee status and financial support for EU students.
While the Scottish government has provided (in February 2018) this clarity for EU students starting courses next year, universities in other parts of the UK are still waiting for official confirmation. Universities UK has been calling for this confirmation since the start of 2018 and says there is now an urgent need for clarity across all parts of the UK.
There are currently 134,835 students from other EU countries in the UK and demand has remained strong in recent years.
Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive of Universities UK, said: "There is now an urgent need for clarification from government on this issue. Students and universities need to know as a matter of urgency whether EU students starting a course in 2019-20 will continue to be eligible for home fee status or financial support, and whether this will apply for the duration of their course.
"Students from across the EU, who bring great economic and academic value, are already enquiring about 2019 study, but face uncertainty on the expected financial costs of doing so. We know from research that the majority of international students start their research about studying abroad more than 12 months in advance of actual enrolment.
"While the Scottish government confirmed this in February, there is now an urgent need for clarification to be provided across all parts of the UK. It is critical that action is taken to prevent a drop in EU applications next year."
For the recruitment of students, including PhD students, sufficient notice is important because evidence shows that the majority of students start their research about studying abroad well in advance of actual enrolment. Data from Hotcourses, which matched 1,718 registered students' data with enrolments at universities, found that around 80% of students who enrolled at a UK university started their research more than 12 months ahead of enrolling onto their course, with one-third of the total sample having started their research between 2 and 3 years in advance.
A survey of 67,000 prospective international applicants published recently suggested that Brexit could put off students from studying in the UK. The International Student Survey revealed that 39% of EU students thought that Brexit would deter them from studying in the UK, many citing fears about higher costs and whether they would be welcome.
Ahead of the EU leaders summit in March this year, Universities UK published a priorities statement on Brexit. It called for clarity on a number of areas affecting universities, including the issue of 2019-20 EU students' status.