No-Deal Brexit Could Majorly Impact British Universities and Students

The danger British universities may face from the result of a no-deal Brexit scenario has recently been brought to the spotlight by Universities UK, claiming the situation “seriously threatens” the country’s higher education institutions stability.

Now that Theresa May’s deal has suffered a major defeat in Parliament, uncertainty has increased considerably. In a no-deal scenario, the chances of EU students’ fees changing over the next few years have increased. Current EU students are charged the same fees as UK students and they can take a government tuition fee loan out. However, leaving without a deal could lead to future EU students not receiving a tuition fee loan and paying up to £20,000 for their course.

Prospective EU students had been assured during April 2017 that their fee status wouldn’t be affected by the UK leaving the Union during their course. This guarantee has not stopped the number of EU students applying for the 2018/2019 year dropping 3%, according to the Russell Group. Without a Brexit deal, we can expect these numbers to increase exponentially, as many EU students rely on the tuition fee loan in order to study abroad.

Every year, the EU allocates £730 million a year for research and development to the UK. According to the European Council, around 70% of this funding goes to universities. Losing the European Union’s funding will have an important impact on the country’s higher education.

The Erasmus+ Scheme is one of the issues that concerns students and researchers the most. Currently, UK organisations and students are eligible for this programme. Erasmus+ is a great cultural immersion opportunity for British students, as well as a major mechanism to fund university research. In case the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the government’s underwrite guarantee ensures there will be funding available for those already successful in their applications. However, continuation in the Erasmus+ scheme after a no-deal Brexit is uncertain.

Regarding the Horizon 2020 scheme, the situation is similar to the one of Erasmus+. Without a deal, the government will fund the successful Horizon 2020 research projects for their whole duration. Once this scheme is terminated, Horizon Europe will take over for the period between 2021 and 2027. If a hard, no-deal Brexit took place, the United Kingdom would be excluded from Horizon programmes.

The same would happen with other EU research grants limited to Member States. UK based scientists and organisations won’t be able to apply for the European Research Council, some parts of the Marie Sklodowska-Curie fellowship programme, and the SME. instrument. If the United Kingdom wants to apply for EU research funding after a no-deal Brexit, it would be limited to third-country schemes.   

No-deal Brexit leaves the higher education system in a very delicate position. The risk of losing important funding is concerning for students, researchers and university staff. University leaders across the country have written a joint letter to MPs, urging them to consider how negative a no-deal Brexit would be for British universities. With the outcome of Brexit still uncertain, we can just hope the best decisions will be taken in order to guarantee our universities remain their world-class status.

Elena Sotelo

Image: [Times Higher Education]