How no-deal Brexit will impact students, teachers, researchers

The EU is making plans to ensure that students starting an Erasmus+ exchange involving the UK before Brexit will be able to complete it, whether or not the UK leaves the EU with a deal.

Since its creation, in 1987, the Erasmus programme has allowed more than 9 million people to study abroad. Almost 17,000 British students went on an Erasmus exchange in the year 2016-17. Unless some other arrangements are put in place, however, UK students and universities may be cut out of the programme in the future.

But this is not the only way students, teachers and researchers are affected by Brexit. From visas to qualifications, this is how the UK departure from the EU will impact education.

1. Admission, fees and loans

The British government has promised that, with or without a deal, EU nationals living in the UK before 29 March 2019 will be able to stay, as long as they apply for “settled status” by 31 December 2020. For students, this means continuing to study, pay domestic fees and access education benefits as nationals do. A government note also says that British returning from the EU will be considered for admission to school “on the same basis as people living in the UK”. EU countries are taking measures to guarantee the rights of their UK residents too.

But what happens for people moving across the UK border after Brexit? The draft withdrawal agreement continues the current situation until 31 December 2020. In the event of no deal, citizens moving to the UK from the European Economic Area and Switzerland can continue studying in the UK, says the government. But after an initial period of three months they have to apply to remain in the country for up to 3 years.

Further, after 2021, when the new immigration regime is expected to be in place, only private schools will be able to sponsor EU children, notes immigration lawyer Nichola Carter on the Free Movement blog.

When it comes to higher education, EU nationals moving to the UK after Brexit are likely to face the more expensive international fees and have fewer options for loans, or they will have to rely on financial aid from their home countries.

British citizens moving to the EU after Brexit for education purposes will be covered by the EU directive “on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purposes of research, studies, training, voluntary service, pupil exchange schemes or educational projects and au pairing”. The residence permits granted via this route are valid for at least one year, or for the duration of the studies if this is shorter.

Ireland is an exception, because free movement with the UK will continue. But students who cross the Northern Irish border on a daily basis could have their journeys disrupted in the event of no deal Brexit.

2. Recognition of diplomas

There is no automatic recognition of diplomas across the EU. Students who seek admission to courses in another EU country have to go through a national procedure for the recognition of their diplomas or degrees. The EU facilitates things providing the Europass, a series of documents that make the comparison of studies easier.

After Brexit, procedures involving Britain may become more complicated. The UK, however, remains part of the European Higher Education Area, which provides the framework for the recognition of qualifications under a Convention signed by 47 countries and the EU.

3. Teachers qualifications

Teachers qualified in the European Economic Area and Switzerland have the right to have their qualifications recognised to exercise the profession in the respective territories. The draft withdrawal agreement of the UK from the EU confirms all qualifications recognised up to 31 December 2020, not the ones after that date.

In the event of no deal Brexit, EU teachers in the UK will be able to continue their job by applying for settled status. The British government will also continue recognising qualified teacher, as long as the application for a recognition has been made before 29 March 2019. The plan is to put in place a new system for the future. But the risk of staff shortages looms. According to the Guardian, 3,525 EU nationals were awarded qualified teacher status (QTS) in 2017-18 in England, a 25% drop on the previous year.

Other EU countries are also putting in place measures to recognise qualifications obtained before Brexit. In addition, countries like Germany and France are adapting national rules so that British teachers currently in state schools can maintain their roles given that public servants must be EU citizens.

Besides recognising the qualifications, professional authorities in the European Economic Area have to share details of sanctions or restrictions imposed on teachers to protect students’ safety. This will no longer be the case for the UK: in the future, the Teaching Regulation Agency will not maintain details of teachers sanctioned in EEA countries, and authorities in the EU will not be obliged to maintain details of sanctioned UK teachers.

4. School trips

Short trips are unlikely to be affected by new rules, as both the UK and the EU will allow their citizens short term stays without a visa. But it might be worth checking the expiry dates of passports: travellers to the Schengen area must have a passport issued within the last 10 years on the date of arrival and have at least 3 months’ validity from the date of departure. 

In the event of no deal Brexit, participants in school trips will also need to take healthcare insurance as the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) for emergency treatment will not be accepted in the UK, nor for UK residents travelling to the EU, after 29 March 2019. The card will only remain in use for people covered by the withdrawal agreement, if this is approved.

5. Erasmus+

According to the Brexit agreement, EU programmes will continue running until 31 December 2020. But in the event of no deal, 14,000 EU students and educators taking part in the Erasmus+ programme in the UK and 7,000 UK participants in the EU would have to interrupt their activities and lose their credits.

The EU is discussing measures to avoid this and ensure that participants in the Erasmus+ at the time of Brexit can keep receiving funds and complete the studies. The British government also committed to underwrite funds for Erasmus+ and European Solidarity Corps projects that have already been confirmed. However, new rules on insurance and, depending on the duration of the exchange, visas may apply.

6. Other exchange programmes

Universities UK, the body representing the higher education sector in the UK, has launched a campaign asking the government to continue funding opportunities to study abroad for UK students, even if the participation in the Erasmus+ programme cannot be negotiated. Other study abroad programmes exist. One of them is the Entente Cordiale Scholarship Scheme for British postgraduate students who want to study in France and French students who want to study in the UK. But the number of places is limited. In these cases too, new rules on insurance and visas may apply.

7. Research

Based on the draft withdrawal agreement, the UK will continue to participate in EU research projects under the Horizon 2020 programme until their conclusion. In case of no deal, the European Commission proposed to continue making payments to UK beneficiaries for contracts agreed before 30 March 2019, until 31 December 2019. This is on condition that the UK honours its obligations under the 2019 EU budget and that it accepts the necessary audits and controls.

On its part, the British government has committed to underwrite funding for the Horizon 2020 programme for all successful UK bids submitted before Brexit. This guarantee, however, only covers UK participants so project partners elsewhere in Europe may be impacted. After Brexit, UK entities could still participate in Horizon 2020 projects open to third countries, and the British government promised to extend the guarantee for UK participants in these projects too.

Horizon 2020 provides about 80 billion euros of funding for the period 2014-2020. In the first three years, UK organisations participated in over 7500 projects, more than any other country.

Several British universities are also entering partnerships with EU counterparts to continue research collaboration. One of these partnerships has recently been signed by Imperial College London and the Technical University of Munich.

Education in the EU

Within the European Union, the primary responsibility for education lies with the member states. The European Commission only plays a complementary role with regard to cooperation and activities across borders.

EU countries have committed under the EU cooperation framework to limit early school leaving to 10% (from 13.9% in 2010) and ensure that 40% of people have tertiary educational (from 34% in 2010) by 2020.

There are also plans to create a European Education Area so that by 2025 “young people receive the best education and training”, learning, studying and doing research is not “hampered by borders” and “spending time in another member state to study, to learn, or to work has become the standard”. According to the plan, by 2025 Europeans finishing upper secondary education should also have a good knowledge of two languages in addition to their mother tongue, and a network of European universities that work together across borders will be created.

Claudia Delpero © all rights reserved.

Photo: © European Union, 2017. Source: EC – Audiovisual Service.

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