How European students will be affected by Brexit

“Despite many universities efforts to inform and support each of their students, a sense of uncertainty surrounding the subject is all too familiar”

The 31st October may have passed yet Brexit still looms and, with the UK remaining at risk of a no-deal following their withdrawal from the European Union, many people in education are still questioning exactly how European students will be affected by Brexit.

Despite many universities efforts to inform and support each of their students, a sense of uncertainty surrounding the subject is all too familiar for both EU nationals studying at UK universities and those participating in Erasmus+ programmes which since 1987 have granted all UK and wider European university students and lecturers the opportunity to study or intern abroad for up to a year.

So, what may a ‘no deal’ Brexit mean for European Students? According to Universities UK, whose members consist of both vice-chancellors and principals of institutions across the country, an exploration into the implications for universities and how to minimise risk has revealed that a failed Brexit negotiation will cause further uncertainty about the UK’s commitment and involvement with the Erasmus+ programme.

In recent papers regarding the outcome of a no-deal Brexit and how European students will be affected, the government stated it will continue its involvement with the European Commission and associated Erasmus+ programme into 2020 and that EU funding for participating UK students will continue.

However, the European Commission has let it be known that without a clear agreement on the status and eligibility of British applicants, both freedom of movement and funding for students cannot be guaranteed and the UK ceasing their participation in Erasmus remains a potential outcome despite its evident benefits for students with over 50% of those who study abroad, doing so through the programme.

It is therefore believed the government is looking to establish a new relationship with Erasmus, as currently not all participating countries are recognised EU members such as Turkey and Norway.

These countries are known as ‘programme members’ and have the right to participate fully, although there are also ‘partner countries’ such as Armenia and Lebanon who participate to various extents. If it proves impossible for the UK to continue in the Erasmus programmes, or for its universities to accept European students due to restriction of movement then new arrangements for exchange programmes will need to be established.

It is believed the government is looking to establish a new relationship with Erasmus

Brexit delays and a no-deal could also result in a lack of a clear transition period between the date of Brexit (extended to 31st January 2020) may also cause issue surrounding freedom of movement. European students and other EU nationals should apply for European temporary leave to remain if moving to the UK after a no-deal Brexit and remaining after December 2020.

For any European student with plans to stay in the UK for more than three years, a visa is likely to be required and those affected should seek advice from an immigration lawyer regarding visa or settlement options as well as the future immigration system which is set to operate from 2021 onwards.

Since the results of the 2016 referendum, it has become increasingly more evident that, especially in the event of a no-deal Brexit, there is little certainty surrounding future mobility and access to established programmes for all citizens, although in this particular case it is clear both UK students who wish to study abroad and European students who are likely to be directly affected.

It is in the best interest then for those in representing universities to continually share new updates regarding educational exchange programmes such as Erasmus to ensure our universities, UK students with plans to study abroad and European students are best prepared for Brexit.

This article was contributed by Axis Solicitors who specialise in immigration law and services from visa applications to Home Office appeals.