European students will have to pay like Americans to attend university in England.
Anyone who fails to move to the U.K. by 31 December this year will face very high costs for tuition, health coverage and visas… and to complicate things there is also covid.
Students from all over Europe, hurry up. If you want to study, or have already planned to study, at Oxford, Cambridge or other universities in the U.K. for the same cheap fees as British citizens, you will need to enter British soil before the encroaching 31 December 2020.
The increase in tuititon fees
This is because, as a result of of Brexit, even a single day's delay will force E.U. students to pay expensive tuition fees, thus far destined only for non-Europeans. Therefore, from 1 January, this treatment will also be reserved for Italians, French, Germans and other E.U. member states.
The difference between the two systems, especially if you enroll in the most prestigious universities, will be thousands of euros per year, with peaks of tens of thousands for the entire degree. Not only, between visas and health insurance, the bill could rise by an additional one thousand euros per year, per European student.
From January 1, 2021, in fact, the United Kingdom will be definitively out of the EU, will leave the agreement of free movement of European citizens, including Italians, who will be treated like all other foreigners: Americans, Chinese, South Americans, Africans, etc.
Also read: What's happening with Brexit?
The 31 December 2020 deadline
The deadline to be considered equal to native British citizens, and therefore continue to pay significantly reduced university tuition fees, is 31 December. If you are able to enter British territory before that date, you can apply for the Settlement Scheme.
This platform for the registration of European citizens resident in U.K., which, by presenting proof of residence on British soil, grants a residence permit of five years ("Pre-Settled Status") for those who have lived in the U.K. for less than five years, and permanent residence ("Settled Status") for those who have been in the U.K. for more than five years and in compliance with taxes.
The Settlement Scheme
Once you have entered the U.K. before 31 December, you can apply for the Settlement Scheme, in theory, until the end of June 2021, and then you have plenty of time to submit the documentation proving your residence and obtain a residence permit of at least five years.
This is decisive because it is free of charge, replaces visas (for a fee), provides free health care in the U.K. and, in this specific case, allows students to pay the same fees as the British for the academic year 2020-2021, and in some cases for the duration of the degree course. According to the Guardian, the British Home Office could even accept just the airplane ticket that certifies arrival before 31 December to grant the Pre-Settled Status, although in theory it would require proof of residence of at least three months, such as a bill, or the receipt of the local tax paid. The Home Office has not confirmed this eventuality, but there is some flexibility. In this regard, for a European student it is even possible to move to the U.K. before 31 December 2020 and enroll in a degree course for the academic year 2021-2022, at the favorable pre- Brexit conditions, since they would already be in possession of the "Pre-Settled Status".
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For students who are unable to move or enter the U.K. before 31 December, things change radically. In addition to paying much more expensive annual fees like other foreign students from around the world, they will first have to apply for a specific visa which, unlike the free Settlement Scheme, costs 348 pounds (about 400 euros) and can last up to five years more, with the possibility of two more years (for graduates) or three years (PhDs) to find a job.
Not only, if you arrive after 31 December, you will also have to pay for health insurance. Which, although discounted specifically for students by 25%, will cost another 470 pounds per year, or almost 550 euros, obviously multiplied for the duration of stay in the U.K.
In short, even a single day's delay after 31 December can change the opportunities and the bank account of many young Europeans. But what makes the situation even more complicated is the coronavirus crisis. Not just because of the difficulty of travel and mandatory quarantine. But also because, due to the pandemic, many U.K. university degree courses are now online, or done remotely, and therefore several European students have enrolled regularly without ever having moved. This is the case, unfortunately not unique, followed by the Guardian, of 19-year-old Lithuanian Mantas Gudelis, who in September regularly began his academic career in biochemistry at the University of Edinburgh but, for covid, has so far never moved from Vilnius, where he lives with his family. "This now could cost me at least a thousand euros more per year that my family and I unfortunately cannot afford," he says.
However, beyond the visa and health coverage, every university can behave as it wants and can, in theory, continue to allow Europeans to pay the same fees as the British (at its own expense, of course, not the government). However, this could still trigger discrimination toward other foreign students.
If at the beginning of 2020 European spirit was strong, now because of the coronavirus the coffers have dried up even for the best universities, while many others of the second or third tier in England even risk bankruptcy. European kids should not expect any preferential treatment. The only exception are Irish students, who will be treated like the British under the Good Friday Peace Agreement (1998) in Northern Ireland.
Erasmus, the famous student exchange program, is also at great risk. For the year 2020-2021 it will continue from and to the United Kingdom, what happens after that is not known. It is one of the countless chapters of the very complicated agreement, not only commercial, on post-Brexit relations that the U.K. and E.U. have been negotiating for two years now. The deadline for an agreement is 31 December. A "No Deal", a brutal exit of England from the European Union without an agreement, could have even more serious consequences for European students.