Under existing rules, all EU higher education students are treated the same as a national from the country in which they seek to study. Depending upon the negotiated terms of Brexit there may be future implications for Irish students studying in the UK. My Department is keeping this matter under constant review and it is my stated intention to seek to have the best outcome for our students.
A principal concern of mine is to protect to the greatest extent possible student mobility between Ireland and Northern Ireland, the UK and within the EU and to support our strategy to increase non-EU student flows. I am particularly concerned to facilitate the continued feasibility of the UK as an option for our further and higher education students.
With such issues in mind a key part of my approach has been to engage on Brexit-related matters at political and institutional level. I have met my counterparts Peter Weir and Simon Hamilton of the NI Executive, and recently met with the UK’s Secretary of State for Education, Justine Greening. I also met the former Minister of State for Exiting the EU, David Jones, the UK’s Opposition Spokesperson on Brexit, Keir Starmer, as well as members of the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Irish in Britain. I have also had meetings with Ministers from other EU Member States and with representatives of the EU Commission at which our priorities and concerns were raised.
In relation to Irish students currently studying in Higher Education Institutions in the UK and those planning to do so in the coming years, the UK Government have outlined that the EU referendum outcome and the triggering of Article 50 will not lead to any immediate change to the immigration status of current EU students, including those that are on courses in this academic year (2016–17).
It has also been outlined in separate statements from across all UK nations (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) that current university students from the EU and those applying to courses starting in 2017–18 will not see any changes to their loan eligibility or tuition fee status. This position will apply for the full duration of the course, even if the course finishes after the UK has left the EU. For students looking to study in Scotland, this position has been extended to those enrolling for 2018–19.
Separate statements from across all UK nations confirm that current EU students, including 2016–17 entrants, will remain 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. 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. This means that eligible EU students already studying in Scotland, including those that commenced their studies the current academic year (2016–17) will continue to benefit from free tuition and, for those who meet the residency requirement, associated living cost support.
In Northern Ireland, the Department for the Economy has issued a statement confirming that EU nationals who are currently receiving student loans from Student Finance Northern Ireland, including those that started courses last autumn (in the 2016–17 academic year) will continue to receive these loans and grants until they finish their course.
The following is the position for EU students applying for a course starting in 2017–18:
- In England: The Government has outlined that EU students applying to start a course in England in 2017–18 will continue to be eligible for tuition fee loans and for 'home' fee status for the duration of their study.
- In Wales: The Education Secretary has announced that EU nationals who intend to begin studying in the academic year 2017–18 will also continue to receive financial support.
- It has also been confirmed in a statement from the Scottish Government that students starting courses in 2017 at universities in Scotland will continue to receive free tuition and other support for the full duration of their course.
- Similar announcements have been made in respect of EU students applying to universities in Northern Ireland. Student Finance Northern Ireland has said that EU nationals currently in higher education and those who intend to begin studying from 2017 who are assessed as eligible to receive loans and/or grants, will continue to receive these until they finish their course.
EU students applying for a PhD starting in 2017-18:
It has been confirmed by the UK Government that EU nationals starting courses in the next academic year (2017-18) will continue to be eligible for Research Council PhD studentships to help fund their studies for the full duration of their course. This will be the case even if the course finishes after the UK has left the European Union.
The foregoing is the most up-to-date information available to my Department in relation to the implications of Brexit on EU Students (including Irish students) currently studying or wishing to study in Higher Education Institutions in the UK in the coming years.
However, to ensure the utmost clarity for each individual student, I would advise all prospective Irish and other EU students to contact the higher education institution they are planning to apply to, or which they are already attending, in order to absolutely confirm its policy with regard to fees and tuition support for 2017-2018 and into the future.
My Department, as with all Government Departments, is continuing to engage with these matters and to plan for scenarios that might arise out of the EU-UK Brexit discussions. We will continue to contribute to the EU preparations for negotiations and to assist with those negotiations to the greatest extent possible. This includes engaging on education-related aspects of the Common Travel Area between Ireland and the UK and the issues identified in the EU Guidelines recently published that set out the priorities for the negotiations for the EU.