Maintaining attractive fees to retain EU students in Wales

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Higher education institutions usually charge two levels of fees: a home fee or an overseas fee – the latter being higher than the former. Home fee status can be granted to international students so that they are charged the same as UK domiciled students and are eligible for student finance. EU, EEA and Swiss nationals, and their family members are currently eligible for home fee status providing they meet the relevant criteria, including any residence requirements.

But in August 2020, the Welsh Government announced that because of Brexit, EU nationals and their family members in higher or further education would no longer receive the same support as Welsh domiciled students from 1 August 2021. Unsurprisingly, this did not go down well among Welsh education providers, who worried about the numbers of EU students depleting.

To mitigate this risk, the Welsh Government has since changed its stance. On 6 January, Kirsty Williams, Wales’ Minister for Education, announced the extension of financial support and home fee status for EU, EEA, and Swiss nationals undertaking higher education courses post-Brexit as follows:

  • EU, EEA, Swiss nationals, and their family members studying in Wales are eligible for home fee status if they benefit from citizens’ rights under EU withdrawal agreements.
  • UK nationals living in British Overseas Territories will be eligible for home fee status, as will UK nationals living in EU overseas territories until at least 1 January 2028.
  • The Welsh Government will provide support to EU nationals and their family members, but certain groups will have this support limited to higher education courses beginning before 1 January 2028.

The announcement, therefore, suggests that support will be available up to 1 January 2028, and that home fee status will apply indefinitely. While this may not bring the increase in revenue UK educations institutions might have expected, it certainly helps to keep the UK an attractive place to study for EU, EEA, and Swiss students.

It’s worth noting, though, that the extension will only apply to those who benefit from citizens’ rights under the various withdrawal agreements. Although it’s yet to be clarified, it’s assumed that this only includes people who have settled or pre-settled status. This means that students will have had to have applied for and received this status before, they can benefit from lower tuition fees and access student loan funding.

In line with consumer protection guidance, higher education providers are under a legal obligation to make the information relating to course and funding eligibility clear and non-ambiguous to help a student determine if they wish to accept an offer to study at their institution – so it’s crucial that they keep on top of the latest developments.

Are you responsible for the recruitment or the admissions process for overseas students? If you have any questions about the above or would like to discuss practical implications for your establishment, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.