EU students applying for college and university places for the 2017-18 academic year will be eligible for student loans and grants for the duration of their course, the government has announced. This means students entering FE next year will be eligible for the same support as current students, even if the UK leaves the EU during their studies. This includes advanced learner loans, as well as student loans and support for students taking HE programmes in FE colleges.
The news come just over a week after home secretary Amber Rudd announced plans to consider for the first time whether student immigration rules should be tailored to the quality of the course and the quality of the educational institution.
"I’m passionately committed to making sure our world-leading institutions can attract the brightest and the best. But a student immigration system that treats every student and university as equal only punishes those we should want to help," the home secretary told the Conservative Party conference. "This isn’t about pulling up the drawbridge. It’s about making sure students that come here, come to study."
Announcing this morning that prospective college and university students from the EU applying for next year’s courses would receive the same support as current students, universities minister Jo Johnson acknowledged that the referendum results had brought uncertainty.
He added: "This latest assurance that students applying to study next year will not only be eligible to apply for student funding under current terms, but will have their eligibility maintained throughout the duration of their course, will provide important stability for both universities and students."
Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said she was pleased the government had clarified the situation, but did not believe this measure could "undo the damage that various proposals floated at the Conservative Party conference last week may have done via headlines around the world". She added: "The government needs to think very carefully about the message it wants to send to the rest of the world at this challenging time."
Julian Gravatt, assistant chief executive at the Association of Colleges, said the annoucnement was "reassuring to prospective students and helpful to colleges, especially as they have already started recruiting for September 2017". "Many EU nationals enrolling in college already live here.The education and training students get from college helps UK companies and public services fill skills shortages which provides wider benefits. The EU exit negotiations create lots of uncertainty about the future so it is helpful to have some short-term certainty,” he added.
In August, the Treasury announced that it would "guarantee" the next round of funding from the European Social Fund (ESF) beyond Brexit – as long as contracts were signed before the Autumn Statement.
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