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Since the announcement that Britain will be leaving the European Union, there has been a lot of questions concerning what effects the decision could have on student lifestyles. Just how will Brexit affect students? When you consider how many students voted to remain in the EU it hammers home how much concern they are feeling.
First of all it is important not to panic; departing from the EU will be a two year period of exit negotiations. In fact it will be almost impossible to trigger article 50 before the end of 2016, and Theresa May has said that it will be triggered by March 2017.
Most anxieties are understandably about money matters, with doomsday headlines warning that we could be on the verge of a new recession since the instantaneous slump in the pound’s value. The truth is slightly less worrying, the 2008 recession was caused by mismanagement of banks and although the choice to leave the EU has triggered a very large economic shock, the banks have responded with damage limitation strategies.
Although concerns about a new recession have reduced, it is predicted that economic growth in Britain will be 2.5% less than it would have been had Brexit not happened.
By the looks of things, exit negotiations with Brussels will not be happening overnight. Although the British economy has slowed down and the pound dropped significantly following the vote, this has started to stabilise, so the recession predicted by some following the vote is unlikely to materialise.
Job prospects could be affected, however. The National Union of Students has said ‘If some form of free movement remains, it could be that broadly the same opportunities will exist as now. If not, then much will depend on the visa and immigration rules put in place’.
Again, the effects Brexit will have on students studying abroad will be dependent on exactly when the two year exit negotiations begin. Having said this (and at risk of creating more stress through suspense) no one can predict the effects on these students if Britain does go ahead with leaving the European Economic Area (EEA).
Each EU country will have a different policy. For example, in Germany study is free to students of all nationalities and Brexit will make no difference to this ruling. However Maastricht University in the Netherlands issued a statement that in the event of Britain leaving the EEA, its tuition fees ‘could’ raise from £1600 to a figure between £6300 and £8360.
The university has initiated a task-force to monitor the effect Brexit has on British people studying there, who must all be somewhat worried right now…
Many people in Scotland have expressed concerns that they are being forced out of the EU against their will. If Scotland opts to remain in the EU it will continue to allow EU students to enrol for free, however they could quite easily discriminate against English students and would be in their legal right to do so.
The statement issued by Universities Scotland and the Scottish Government reassured EU students that there has been no change in current funding arrangements, but hasn’t yet made a statement concerning English students.
It has been promised by the government that nothing will change for European national students already receiving student loans, and the agreed funding will continue until their courses end.
It has also been declared that no changes should be expected for people who are beginning their studies this month, which includes loans and grants for maintenance and loans for tuition fees. This includes the new postgraduate loan.
There has still been no confirmation of EU students studying in Northern Ireland.
Many consider an underlying xenophobic rhetoric to have been partly responsible for the success of the leave campaign; however the reported rise of incidents of hate crime in the UK is not characteristic of how foreign students are treated.
Following the vote, lots of universities issued similar statements underlining that racism of any description is not tolerated and has advised that if you ever experience any of this behaviour it should be reported immediately.
The UK values its international students and has a good track record of taking a very severe stance against xenophobia, so rest assured that universities will not tolerate abuse of this sort.
As far as Erasmus+ is concerned, no change should be expected for students currently participating in the programme and The UK National Agency is set to continue managing and delivering it without change. Again it is unknown what changes could occur following the occurrence of Brexit.
So although it’s not all doom and gloom there is definitely still a lot of uncertainty at how things will play out. For British students, the acknowledgement that being British is noticeably more expensive than it was pre June 2016 should be ample warning that if you want to study, you should get yourself in the system as fast as possible because it is unlikely to become any cheaper over the next 15 years…
For foreign students wanting to study in the UK there appears to be no change for current students, but if you intend to study in a few years time keep an eye out for whether immigration laws will target students. Losing foreign students would be a massive loss to the UK, so expect ministers to tread very carefully…