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Home Fees - our letter to the Minister of Universities

Home Fees - our letter to the Minister of Universities

Despite promises of a grace period of 7 years for home fees at UK universities, we have found that there is widespread confusion within the universities as well as issues with the funding process. We have, therefore, written to Michelle Donelan, copying in Wendy Morton, FCDO.

"Dear Minister Donelan, dear Minister Morton,

We write concerning the issue of home fees at UK universities for British citizens living in the European Economic Area and Switzerland.

Practically the morning after the referendum result, we realised that leaving the EU would mean that our children would no longer be covered by rules allowing them to access home fees as EEA/CH residents. We therefore asked for the EU rules to be continued for UK citizens in the EEA and CH. After almost three years of requesting this in many meetings with ministers and civil servants, we were told that British citizens in the EEA and Switzerland would be granted a grace period of seven years from the end of transition for home fees. We breathed a sigh of relief and informed our members.

Unfortunately, things have not turned out as we hoped. This is the first year of post-transition applications and UK citizens living in the EEA and Switzerland are informing us that their children are either being offered international fees at universities in the UK or (and perhaps worse) being told that they must accept an offer before confirmation of the fee basis. It is now the end of May. The UCAS deadline is 10 June and students are in the middle of revising for or sitting baccalaureates, Abitur, and other school leaving exams.

In addition, many students are being told that they will not qualify for UK student loans. Many were relying on them as their host EU states do not fund grants and loans for study outside the EU. Funding university education in the UK, even on home fees, will be difficult for the majority of British families in the EEA if their children have no access to student loans. International fees combined with no student loan will make studying in the UK impossible for all but the 1%.

This adds up to a breach of promise by the UK Government, devolved nations, and British universities towards young British citizens growing up in the EEA and Switzerland, whose futures are now at stake. These are well-educated, multilingual students who have grown up in other European countries. They could provide the bridge the UK needs if it is to realise its soft power goals outlined in the recent integrated review. However, perhaps the most important point is simply that they are British citizens. They had no choice in where they were born or where their parents chose to live. But as a result of Brexit they now find themselves with fewer concrete opportunities to study in the UK than EU citizens living in the UK, or Irish citizens who have never lived in the UK and who may have no link with the UK at all.

This is no way to treat your citizens, especially young ones. This fact is recognised by governments from Croatia to Canada who offer their overseas citizens home fees and even scholarships to return home to study. We can think of no other country that penalises young citizens living overseas in this way.

Time is running out, and we are asking you to remedy this before it is too late for this year’s prospective students. Please speak to your colleagues in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and ensure that the home fee grace period is implemented so that every British child applying from the EEA and Switzerland is offered home fees and access to student loans at UK universities on courses starting from August 2021."

Sent 2 June 2021.

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