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Reader question: Can children of Brits living in France attend university in the UK?

University members in black or red gowns and wearing mortar boards walking outside at Britain's Oxford University
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Brexit has seen a sharp increase in tuition fees for European students wanting to attend UK universities - but what about Brits living in France?

Reader question: We are UK nationals living in France since 2012, can our children attend a UK university without having to pay higher fees for international students?

This should be a straightforward issue but – as often with Brexit-related things – there appears to be some confusion. 

EU students – except those from Ireland – who do not have UK settled status have, as of the start of the new educational year, lost the right to pay what are known as ‘home fees’ to attend universities in the UK. They also cannot access student loans, as they had been able to do when Britain was a member of the EU.

Home fees are currently capped at £9,250, while international fees vary from institution to institution, but are routinely twice as much and can be much higher still.

Scottish universities don’t charge ‘home fees’, but international students are still required to pay. The rules on who pays and who doesn’t are the same as English and Welsh universities. 

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The government has confirmed that UK nationals and their family members who were living in the EU, EEA or Switzerland on December 31st, 2020, will generally be eligible for home fee status, tuition fee and maintenance support for courses starting before January 1st, 2028.

They do, however, have to meet the following conditions:

  • they are living in the EEA or Switzerland on December 31st 2020 (or have moved back to the UK immediately after living in the EEA or Switzerland); and

  • they have lived in the EEA, Switzerland, the UK or Gibraltar for at least the last three years; and

  • they have lived continuously in the EEA, Switzerland, the UK or Gibraltar between December 31st, 2020, and the start of the course.

So, British students resident in France will have to pay international fees for any courses they start from 2028, despite a push from the House of Lords to increase the grace period to 15 years – which would have taken it to 2036. This rule will also apply to Irish citizens living in an EU country other than Ireland.

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These changes will apply to funding for apprenticeships and Further Education for anyone aged 19 or more.

After 2028, Britons will only pay ‘home fees’ if they have been resident in the UK for three years before the start of the course they apply for.

That’s the official line. But…

British in Europe, a coalition of grassroots citizens’ organisations and UK citizens in the EU, has found that the situation on the ground has been very different. 

In an open letter sent in June to the Westminster government’s Minister of State for Universities of the United Kingdom, Michelle Donelan, they claimed some universities have already upped their fees for all students living in the EU, including British citizens.

They also said that many students are being told that they will not qualify for UK student loans and called on the minister to act. 

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A survey of more than 2,500 EU students who had planned to study in the UK by the website study.eu found that the higher cost of tuition had put off 84 percent of students from applying for courses at British universities. They would opt for courses in the Netherlands, Germany or France instead.


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