On 24th June 2016, the result of a referendum in the UK as to whether it should remain part of the European Union was declared. The decision was that the UK should leave the EU.
What happens next is that the UK must trigger Article 50, which starts a minimum 2-year exit period from the EU. Within this time, the UK needs to re-negotiate with the EU on matters such as trade and free movement of people, workers and students.
Whilst the results of those negotiations are unknown as yet, the Student Loans Company has confirmed that current students and prospective 2016 starter students will be allowed to study and receive support from the EU for the duration of their course. The SLC released the following statement on 29th June 2016:
“EU nationals or their family members, currently in higher education, and who are assessed as eligible to receive loans and/or grants from the SLC, will continue to receive these loans and grants until they finish their course. This applies to all student finance from the SLC for students in England for which EU nationals are eligible. This includes 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. The rules applying to EU nationals, or their family members, who have applied for a place at university from this August to study a course which attracts student support are unchanged. The SLC will assess these applications against existing eligibility criteria, and will provide loans and/or grants in the normal way. EU nationals, or their family members, who are assessed as eligible to receive grants and/ or loans by the SLC will then be eligible for the duration of their study on that course."
Therefore, the facts currently are as follows:
- The UK's exit from the EU will take at least 2 years, within which time the UK is still bound by EU regulations. The SLC has confirmed that current students will continue to be funded in the normal way. Whilst no official confirmation has been released regarding 17/18 starters, we are expecting that those students will continue to be funded.
- The UK Government historically protects students' rights under the same regulations under which they started their course, allowing them to complete their courses. The SLC's statement confirms this.
- Universities UK are now working on behalf of all universities to convince the Government to take steps to ensure that students (and staff) from EU countries can continue to work and study at British Universities following the UK's exit from the EU after the 2-year period has lapsed. The University of Sunderland is working with Universities UK on behalf of our EU students (and staff).