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 by Mark Bennett
, posted on 20 Jul '20

What Brexit Means for Masters Degrees, PhDs and Other Students

The UK has now announced that EU students will lose automatic access to home fee and funding status for courses beginning after August 2021. However, guarantees are in place for the duration of Masters and PhDs beginning in 2020-21 (the coming academic year). You may also be able to benefit by joining the EU Settlement Scheme in time for the 2021-22 academic year.

Whatever your postgraduate study plans, this blog is here to help explain what Brexit means for you. We've explained what's changing for EU students in the UK (and when). We've also looked at what will happen for UK students looking to do a Masters or PhD in the EU.

What's happening to EU students' fees and funding in 2020-21?

Existing guarantees mean EU, EEA and Swiss nationals will still pay domestic fees (the same as a UK student) for a Masters or PhD starting in 2020-21 (this coming academic year). You'll also have access to the same funding, including Masters loans, PhD loans and some Research Council studentships.

This applies for the duration of your degree. Provided you start your study in 2020-21, your fee and funding status won't change after 2020-21.

What's happening to EU students' fees and funding from 2021-22 onwards?

The UK Government has now confirmed that EU students will lose automatic access to 'home fee' status from August 2021. This means that, if you come to the UK to start a Masters or PhD in 2021-22 or later, you'll pay the same higher fees as other non-UK students. You'll also lose access to UK Masters loans and PhD loans.

Why does Brexit matter for students?

Brexit matters because it will change or replace current agreements on studying abroad between the UK and EU countries. These affect:

  • Whether you need a visa or residence permit to study abroad
  • How much you pay for your course
  • What government finance and postgraduate funding you can get from the country you go to study in

EU citizens do not need visas to study in other EU member states. They also pay the same fees and access the same funding as 'domestic students' from the country they study in. Brexit may mean that EU students need a visa to study in the UK – and vice versa for UK students in Europe.

Will EU students need a visa to study in the UK after Brexit?

You won't need a visa to arrive in the UK as an EU citizen prior to 1 January 2021 (during the transition period). This means that you won't need a visa to start a UK Masters or PhD in 2020-21 (provided your degree begins in the autumn semester).

However, you will need to apply to the UK Government's EU Settlement Scheme to continue living in the UK and / or finish your course after the transition period ends. You have until 20 June 2021 to do this.

Arrangements for students arriving in the UK or EU to start courses in the 2021-22 academic year and beyond will be subject to future negotiations.

What if I apply for the EU Settlement Scheme?

If you are already living in the UK you can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme and retain many of the rights you have now (including the ability to pay domestic university fees and access student finance).

There are two statuses you can receive through the scheme:

  • If you have been living continuously in the UK for five years or more you may be eligible for settled status with no limit on the time you can remain in the UK
  • If you have been living continuously in the UK for less than five years you may be eligible for pre-settled status with the right to remain in the UK for up to five years (during which time you can become eligible to apply for settled status)

Both settled status and pre-settled status allow you to live and study in the UK as you do now, though there are some limits on the amount of time you can spend outside the UK. See the UK Government Website for more information.

If you want to take part in the EU Settlement Scheme you must apply before 31 December 2020.

What will happen to fees / funding for UK students in the EU?

The UK has provided guarantees to all students from the remaining 27 EU countries for Masters, PhDs and other courses beginning in 2020-21. But it's up to individual EU countries to decide what their policy will be for UK students studying abroad at their universities.

We've done our best to round up the current plans and announcements below.


What Brexit Means for UK Students in the EU
Austria Guarantees apply during the withdrawal period. UK citizens will then be treated as international students. Further information
Belgium Guarantees apply for 2020-21. UK citizens may be treated as international students from 2021-22. Further information
Bulgaria Guarantees apply for 2020-21. UK citizens may be treated as international students from 2021-22. Further information
Croatia Guarantees apply for 2020-21. UK citizens may be treated as international students from 2021-22. Further information
Cyprus Guarantees apply for 2020-21. UK citizens may be treated as international students from 2021-22. Further information
Czech Republic Guarantees apply for 2020-21. UK citizens may be treated as international students from 2021-22, but fees will not change.* Further information
Denmark Guarantees apply for 2020-21. UK citizens may be treated as international students from 2021-22. Further information
Estonia Guarantees apply for 2020-21. UK citizens may be treated as international students from 2021-22. Further information
Finland Guarantees apply for 2020-21. UK citizens will be treated as international students from 2021-22. Further information
France Guarantees apply for 2020-21. UK citizens may be treated as international students from 2021-22 and will pay higher fees if so.** Further information
Germany Guarantees apply for 2020-21. UK citizens may be treated as international students from 2021-22, but fees will not change.* Further information
Greece Guarantees apply for 2020-21. UK citizens may be treated as international students from 2021-22. Further information
Hungary Guarantees apply for 2020-21. UK citizens may be treated as international students from 2021-22. Further information
Ireland Existing fee and funding arrangements will continue to apply after Brexit. Further information
Italy Guarantees apply for 2020-21. UK citizens may be treated as international students from 2021-22. Further information
Latvia Guarantees apply for 2020-21. UK citizens may be treated as international students from 2021-22. Further information
Luxembourg Guarantees apply for 2020-21. UK citizens may be treated as international students from 2021-22. Further information
Lithuania Guarantees apply for 2020-21. UK citizens may be treated as international students from 2021-22. Further information
Malta Guarantees apply for 2020-21. UK citizens may be treated as international students from 2021-22. Further information
Netherlands Guarantees apply during the withdrawal period. UK citizens may then be treated as international students. Further information
Poland Guarantees apply during the withdrawal period. UK citizens will then be treated as international students. Further information
Portugal Guarantees apply for 2020-21. UK citizens may be treated as international students from 2021-22. Further information
Romania Guarantees apply for 2020-21. UK citizens may be treated as international students from 2021-22. Further information
Slovakia Guarantees apply for 2020-21. UK citizens may be treated as international students from 2021-22. Further information
Slovenia Guarantees apply for 2020-21. UK citizens may be treated as international students from 2021-22. Further information
Spain Guarantees apply for 2020-21. UK citizens may be treated as international students from 2021-22. Further information
Sweden Guarantees apply for 2020-21. UK citizens may be treated as international students from 2021-22. Further information

In most cases (but not all!) guarantees apply to UK students starting a degree in Europe in 2020-21. Be aware that these guarantees may mean different things: some EU countries may require British students to apply for some form of registration (similar to the UK's EU Settlement Scheme) before the end of the transition period. These policies may be subject to change or further information.

We'll be updating this blog as more information is available – our free newsletter will let you know when.

It's also worth bearing in mind that even if UK students are treated as international students this doesn't always mean that you'll pay higher fees: some EU countries don't actually charge more to non-EU students and some don't charge anything at all for Masters and / or PhDs.

See our guides to postgraduate study in Europe for more information on how postgraduate fees and funding work.

Other FAQs about Brexit and postgraduate study

We've tried to make the information above as clear as possible and that’s meant leaving aside some other questions. These are covered below, along with some extra clarification for anything that’s confusing about Brexit (. . .).

Some of this information is still a ‘best guess’, but it’s offered in good faith and will be updated as soon as we know more.

What does Brexit mean for Erasmus?

Masters students currently have access to Erasmus Masters Loans and Erasmus Mundus Joint Masters Degrees when studying in Europe. Access to some of this funding will depend on the UK’s membership of Erasmus.

The UK will stop automatically being an Erasmus programme country once Brexit happens. The UK Government hasn't yet confirmed whether it will rejoin Erasmus+ from 2021 onwards.

You should check the specific details for any Erasmus opportunity or funding you wish to apply for.

Which UK postgraduate funding is affected by Brexit?

EU students in the UK currently have access to the following postgraduate funding:

All of these are guaranteed for degrees beginning in 2020-21. However, EU students won't be able to access them for Masters or PhDs beginning after August 2021.

Can Brexit stop me studying abroad?

No. You’ll still be able to study abroad in the UK or EU whatever happens with Brexit (as plenty of other ‘international students’ do already). It’s just that your fees, funding and entry requirements might change.

What if Brexit happens during my degree?

You’re unlikely to be affected by Brexit if you’ve already started your Masters or PhD when the UK leaves the EU.

EU students in the UK are covered by fee and funding guarantees for courses beginning before or during 2020-21. A few EU countries have indicated that they will increase fees after the transition period ends (on 1 January 2021). You should check what this could mean for your course.

When will Brexit actually happen?

The UK left the EU on 31 January 2020 and is currently in a transition period until 30 December 2020, during which existing regulations and arrangements will apply to higher education and study abroad.

Further information

It's easy to get swamped with news, information and, of course, opinion, about Brexit.

The thing to bear in mind is that not everything you read will be relevant to students – and a lot of what is hasn't been confirmed yet.

If you are looking for good sources of further information, we'd recommend the following:

  • The PIE News – here you'll find plenty of information on international education in general, and a quick search for 'Brexit' should turn up relevant news stories and updates
  • The BBC Brexit guide – information here isn't specific to students, but it does provide a clear, simple and up-to-date 'explainer' for the ongoing Brexit process
  • The UK Government's Brexit advice – these pages summarise key information for British citizens in Europe after Brexit and some cover education

You can also get in touch with us using editor[at]findaphd.com if there's something you're not sure about. We can't explain everything about Brexit, but we will do our best to answer questions about postgraduate study.




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