With Brexit fast approaching, many EU students in the UK, whether visiting or full-time, are uncertain what the future might hold for them. On 30 March, there will be 14,000 young Europeans on exchange in the UK under the ERASMUS+ programme and 7,000 Brits on exchange in Europe. But, to quote Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, ‘do not panic!’
Everyone who is currently part of the ERASMUS+ programme will not be forced to return home immediately.
If the EU and the UK reach an agreement, there will be a transition period until the end of 2020. If you are already staying in the UK during this period, you can apply for the EU Settlement Scheme which will grant you permission to live and work in the UK. Those living in the UK after 1 January 2021 will be subject to new immigration rules, which have not been defined as of yet. They might be similar to those that apply to international students, who must find a job with a high enough salary to qualify for a Tier 2 (general working) visa within 4 months after graduation.
If the EU and the UK do not reach an agreement, the transition period and the EU Settlement Scheme will, very likely, be impeded.
What is one to do, after building a life and relationships here, when one may have to drop everything and go back to their home country? What is the point of studying in a country that you will not be able to stay in?
On the one hand, international students are already struggling with the hurdles that EU students might face soon. But EU students are less likely to move to the UK if their future there is uncertain. So, what should one do? The simple solution would be to stay home and not move to the UK, to study abroad in one of the other 27 EU member states.
As an ERASMUS+ student myself, I find this prospect rather depressing. To move abroad, to immerse oneself in another culture, to meet people from all over the continent and the world who benefit from the same freedom of mobility currently under threat, to further one’s language skills, and to experience a different way of life, in my opinion, is one of the most amazing and life-changing opportunities presented to students. The UK and it’s universities have so much to offer and to gain from non-UK students, researchers and professors. But Brexit might put a serious strain on academic collaborations, research partnerships and EU funding.
Deal or no deal, if the UK leaves the EU, the freedom of mobility that EU citizens, not only students, are enjoying at the moment will be lost. How Brexit will impact the UK’s future in general remains to be seen, but if that future will be more isolated, if cultural exchange, is obstructed, then it cannot be the bright future that the Brexiteers are hoping for.
For more information on Brexit consequences for students see: https://tinyurl.com/y4ey9jb7 and https://www.gov.uk/settled-status-eu-citizens-families/what-settled-and-presettled-status-means
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