EEA Students on four year programmes will have to switch to Tier 4 visas when their temporary leave to remain ends. That appears to be the DfE’s conclusion, and what a mess that could be.
As we move towards some form of exit from the European Union, the inevitability that students from the European Economic Area (EAA) will move to being both outside the current Home/EU fee system but also require sponsorship through the visa system if not otherwise eligible to remain in the UK has taken shape.
There’s still a lot unknown, and probably unknowable, about the form of the arrangements after we have left the EU. The mitigating factor is that there’s a temporary right to remain.
While this scheme will be fine for students completing a three year course, there’s been a concern about longer courses. There are plenty of longer courses in England and Wales; integrated masters courses, sandwich courses, foreign language courses etc, but all Scottish undergraduate education is based on a four year course. So this was a key issue to raise at Education questions in the House of Commons on 24 June 2019:
This is a key concern. Some of those commenting on the change for EU students after Brexit have concentrated on the shift from a fee at £9250 in England to one around £14000 as being a marginal concern. This is to seriously understate the change. It’s a fundamental change in approach, but a key concern if it falls within a course.
Changing from Home/EU to International Student
EU students, even those who have not been resident in the UK, are treated similarly to UK students for tuition fees. They receive a tuition fee loan to cover the fee (£9250 in England) so the upfront fee is £0. The Scottish system is also £0 upfront (but without the loan). There is a considerable range of international student fees, and these include some particularly considerable sums when looking at the full-cost of a laboratory or clinical course. The swing is therefore from finding £0 upfront to finding £14,000, £20,000 or more (and showing the UKVI you have it).
Remember that an international student needs to prove that they can support themselves. UKVI provide guidance; a student needs to show they have at least £1015 per month (more in London) available to them. Although students can work to provide additional income this is constrained: no self-employed musicians.
However you frame it, the requirements for a student being sponsored under Tier 4 are more onerous than a student here from the EU. Application can be tricky, requiring a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) and a range of information. Then there are the additional costs of obtaining a visa: currently an application fee of £348 and an immigration health surcharge of £150. Then there are the ongoing monitoring requirements.
Transitional transitional arrangements
Obviously there has to be a cut-off point at some stage. Government is clear that EU temporary leave to remain can’t become a permanent leave to remain, but having this point inside students’ degrees is going to be problematic. DfE need to work through examples that include longer courses. It may be highly problematic that students from the EAA are going to have a more complex, less well-funded scheme once transition is complete, but consider how that will work for students part way through their courses. A key thing that the Devolved Governments could do is to extend the financial arrangements to those students until the end of their courses.