As the government continues to outline its plans for European Union nationals after the UK leaves the EU, there has been concern expressed by university groups about the potential impact it will have on European and international students, and any possible damage it could do to the higher education sector in the UK.
The government recently published its proposals for settling EU citizens in the UK, as reported by the BBC. According to Sajid Javid, the new home secretary, people will be asked to prove their ID, whether they have criminal convictions and whether they live in the UK.
According to the BBC, EU citizens and family members who have been in the UK for five years by the end of 2020 will be able to apply for “settled status”, meaning they are free to go on living and working in the UK indefinitely.
Those who have arrived by 31st December 2020, but do not have five years’ residence, can seek to stay until they have, at which point they can seek settled status. The scheme also includes citizens of Switzerland, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.
The scheme will is projected to cost £65 per application for adults and £32.50 for children and will have a quick turnaround, with the government’s default position to accept all applications with refusals only being made for a “very good reason” Javid told a committee in the House of Lords.
The progress has been welcomed and Michel Barnier has acknowledged that countries in the EU haven’t done enough to reveal how they intend to treat settled British citizens in their countries after the UK leaves in March 2019.
There has been concern expressed, however, by the Russell Group of universities, who said that the proposals “will be a serious challenge for our academic community”.
However, they have welcomed the proposals more broadly as progress in the need to provide certainty to potential international applicants from the EU and further abroad.
The Higher Education Statistics Agency recently released figures to the Times Higher Education supplement showing that over a quarter of all academics were made up of EU nationals at Russell Group institutions.
Tim Bradshaw, Russell Group chief executive, was quoted in by Times Higher Education as saying: “We appreciate the sincere attempt by the Home Office to design a simple and easy-to-use system. It is welcome that the government’s explicit, default position will be to seek to accept, rather than refuse, status applications.
“EU students, in particular [who may need to apply if they wish to stay on in the UK for work or postgraduate study], will appreciate the flexibility surrounding proof-of-residence documentation, as many will not have engaged with the UK’s tax and benefits systems.”
Bradshaw continued: “We urge the government to confirm that the exemption allowing pre-settled EU nationals to leave the UK for up to 12 months including for ‘study or an overseas posting’ will give academics and researchers the greatest possible flexibility in pursuing opportunities overseas without harming their status applications.”
It is expected that the government will release further proposals for the settlement of EU nationals and students soon, meaning that UK universities won’t be unnecessarily hit by a drop in applications from Europe.
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