UK Masters Funding for EU Students in 2021
Written by Mark Bennett
The UK may have left the European Union, but its universities still welcome large numbers of EU students. The short length of a UK Masters degree together with the excellent reputation and rankings of British universities makes them a very popular option.
A few things have changed when it comes to fees and funding for EU Masters students in the UK, but that doesn't necessarily mean you can't apply for a postgraduate scholarship or even a UK student loan.
Brexit – what has and hasn't changed?
The UK left the EU on the 31 December 2020. As of 1 January 2021, EU citizens no longer automatically qualify for domestic fees and funding. Instead, they will count as international students.
It's not quite as simple as that in all cases though:
- If you began a UK Masters (or other degree) in the 2020-21 academic year or earlier, you will continue to pay the same fees as a UK student and have access to UK postgraduate loans
- If you already had settled status in the UK, or have applied to the EU Settlement Scheme, you may still qualify for domestic fees and student finance
- If you are an Irish national, you will still qualify for domestic fees and finance as part of the Common Travel Area
The UK is also no longer part of Erasmus+ which means that some of those funding options aren't currently available for study at British universities.
On the other hand, some UK Masters funding hasn't been affected by Brexit at all – there's more detail on your options below.
Each of the four countries that make up the UK offer a student loan for Masters degrees (and some other postgraduate courses):
These loans are still available to EU students who started their Masters in the 2020-21 academic year and / or have settled or pre-settled status in the UK. They will also continue to be available to Irish students, regardless of when your Masters begins or whether you have applied to the EU Settlement Scheme.
Unfortunately, other new EU students, who arrive in the UK after 31 December 2020 and / or haven't applied to the EU Settlement Scheme won't be eligible for UK postgraduate loans in 2021-22 onwards.
What about fees?
Most international students pay higher fees for UK Masters degrees. From 2021-22 this includes new EU students from outside Ireland who haven't applied to the EU Settlement Scheme. Our guide to the cost of a UK Masters has more information.
The UK's EU Settlement Scheme allows EU citizens to gain settled or pre-settled status in the UK. Having settled or pre-settled status will normally entitle you to apply for postgraduate funding and pay domestic fees on the same terms as a UK student.
You can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme if you arrived in the UK before 31 December 2020. You have until 30 June 2021 to do so.
The UK stopped being an Erasmus programme country on 1 January 2021. This means it is no longer possible to access some Erasmus+ funding for Masters study in the UK.
Some UK universities are still part of existing networks offering Erasmus Mundus Joint Masters Degrees in 2021. You can apply for these as an EU student as normal.
However, because the UK is no longer a programme country, it won't be available as a destination for study with an Erasmus+ Masters Loan or a short-term mobility grant.
The UK will launch its own Turing Scheme in 2021, but it isn't currently clear whether this will fund incoming students to study abroad in the UK. We'll be keeping a close eye on this and will let you know as soon as more information is available.
One thing Brexit doesn't reduce is the funding offered to EU students by UK universities themselves. In fact, some British universities are actually offering new scholarships for EU students.
We expect to see more of this funding during 2021 and will be covering it in our regular blog and newsletter. In the meantime, our guide to Masters funding from universities explains the sort of support that might be offered and where to start looking.
What about visas?
Most EU citizens will now need to apply for a visa through the Student Route in order to come to the UK and begin a Masters in 2021. This applies even if your course takes place within the 2020-21 academic year (for example, if it has a January start). Irish students and those with settled status don't need a visa to study in the UK.
Before Brexit, students from the EEA (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) or Switzerland usually qualified for UK domestic fees and funding in a similar way to EU students. This has now changed and you will need to have settled status, or have applied to the EU Settlement Scheme to be eligible for 'home' fees and student finance in 2021-22 onwards.
Irish students have the right to study in the UK on the same terms as British students (paying domestic fees and accessing student finance) as part of the Common Travel Area which pre-dates the EU. Brexit has no impact on this.
Brexit won't stop UK students from studying in Europe any more than it stops EU students studying in the UK, but it will change some things.
If you are starting a new Masters in Europe in 2021 you will probably need a visa and residence permit for the duration of your course. You may also pay higher fees, though Masters fees in Europe are usually much lower than they are in the UK (and some countries don't charge anything at all).
Check our guides to postgraduate study in Europe for detailed information about different destinations.