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Brexit transition period

The UK is expected to leave the EU on 31 January 2020. The Withdrawal Agreement Bill, which sets out the terms of the UK's exit, is currently making its way through parliament. If it passes, there will be a post-Brexit transition (or implementation) period starting from the date of Brexit and ending on 31 December 2020.


During this transition period, the UK will:

  • continue to contribute to the EU budget
  • continue to apply the entire body of EU law, and so be subject to all EU rules
  • be outside of the EU’s political institutions, with no voting rights

The transition period is intended to minimise disruption for the remainder of 2020. It will mean: 

  • EU students starting courses in 2020/21 or before will remain eligible for home fee status and student support for the duration of their courses
  • EU, EEA or Swiss citizens and their family members who are living in the UK before 31 December 2020 will be eligible to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme
  • UK universities can continue to participate in Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+ and receive funding for the duration of their projects


What does this mean for universities? 

The information below clarifies what the post-Brexit transition period will mean for universities and students, if the Withdrawal Agreement is ratified.

EU student fees

  • Governments across the UK have confirmed that EU students starting a course in 2020/21 or before will be eligible for home fee status/financial support, and that this will apply for the duration of these students’ courses. See separate commitments for students studying in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland.

  • The fee status for 2021/22 starters from the EU has not yet been determined.


EU Settlement Scheme

  • EU, EEa or Swiss citizen's and their family members who are living in the UK by 31 December 2020, will be able to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme. They will be able to be granted either settled status or pre-settled status.

  • The settled status will enable EU nationals who have lived continuously in the UK for at least five years to live, work and study in the UK for as long as they like. 

  • EU nationals having lived in the UK for less than five years will be able to apply for pre-settled status, which will allow them to meet the five-year continuous residency requirement needed to apply for settled status. Those eligible can apply via this website page. The deadline for applying is set to be 30 June 2021.

  • The future immigration arrangements for EU nationals arriving in the UK from 2021 have not yet been determined.


Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+

  • During the transition period, the UK will continue to contribute to the EU budget and therefore remain in EU programmes as if it were a member state.

  • UK-based researchers can bid for and participate in all Horizon 2020 calls issued by 31 December 2020 (and lead consortia), with any successful grants covered in full (via the EU budget) for the duration of the project. The European Commission will continue to make payments to UK projects agreed during this period. Please note: A very small number of UK Horizon 2020 projects which involve access to security-related sensitive information restricted for EU Member States may be unable to continue after Brexit. If you are concerned that your project might be affected, please contact UKRI directly by emailing EUGrantsFunding@ukri.org.uk

  • UK universities can continue to bid for Erasmus+ funding until the end of the current programme in 2020. This means staff and students can complete mobility periods, and receive funding, through the Erasmus+ programme for the full length of the project. Please note: Although these activities will be eligible for funding post-December 2020, some may be restricted based on future immigration arrangements, which have yet to be determined.

  • On 8 January 2020, UK MPs voted against a clause to amend the Withdrawal Agreement Bill. This would have legally required the UK government to seek to negotiate continuing its full membership for the Erasmus+ (2021-2027) programme. Although this amendment was not passed by the UK parliament, this does not automatically mean the UK will not participate in the future Erasmus+ programme. UUKi’s released a response with further information

  • There has not yet been an agreement on the UK’s relationship with EU programmes, including Horizon Europe and the next Erasmus, that are due to start in 2021. 


Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications

  • The EU’s Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications (MRPQ) Directive will continue to apply in the UK during the transition period.


Transnational education (TNE)

  • There will be no changes to the rules on UK universities providing education services (including TNE) in the EU during the transition period. This is because the EU-wide Services Directive will continue to apply until 31 December 2020.

  • The future of UK-EU cross-border services provision will be a key part of the future partnership yet to be agreed between the UK and EU.

Data protection

  • The UK will continue to apply the general data protection regulation (GDPR) during the transition period. 

  • This means that UK researchers may continue to send, receive and process personal data to and from the EU as they do at present after 31 January 2020. 

  • The rules for handling personal data with the EU after 31 December 2020 will need to be agreed as part of the negotiations of the future UK-EU partnership.

  • Please consult the Information Commissioner’s Office website for more information about GDPR and Brexit.


Beyond the transition period

The future UK-EU relationship is due to take effect after the transition period, from 1 January 2021. This future relationship will be the focus of discussions throughout 2020.

For universities, uncertainty remains from 2021 in a number of key areas, including immigration rules and on research collaboration with EU partners.

UUK is asking the government to secure an effective post-Brexit settlement for universities through the transition period and beyond. For an overview of UUK’s asks of this future UK-EU relationship, see our pdf, Securing an effective post-Brexit settlement for UK universities





Updates, comments and questions

This page and supporting documents will be updated as and when required, including when relevant government announcements are made, or actions taken, that address areas of uncertainty, but also based on Universities UK members’ feedback.