On education in Europe and the USA

Clever Magazine
United Kingdom Student life Kirill Delikatnyi

What Does Brexit Mean For Foreign Students?

Personally, when talk of Brexit started echoing across the globe, I felt it mattered very little to me to the extent that I did not even bother trying to understand it. The question seemed simple: to stay or leave the EU? A national debate, that seemed to be only of concern for UK citizens, although heard of as far as China. However, a superpower like the UK, arguably the economic capital of the world, withdrawing from the European Union turned out to have shattering consequences for the geopolitics of the whole globe, not just the European continent. The Brexit decision re-strategised everything from trade agreements to border disputes, but I will walk you through what this decision meant for the students of the UK.
The Brexit decision re-strategised everything from trade agreements to border disputes, but I will walk you through what this decision meant for the students of the UK.

How did British membership look like in the EU?

The reason for my ignorance surrounding Brexit was because to me, as a student, the UK already seemed like a removed country. All my EU friends also needed visas to travel to the country, study there, work and settle there. The only difference was the relatively easier routes for them into the country: they had to pay less in student fees, were eligible for loans, occupied a bigger presence in employment and did not have to wait at the border as long. Little was I concerned with taxes on trade.

The political environment would also not seem so different from what it is now - squabbles regarding autonomy of certain regions like Scotland, border control, Conservative and Labour divides in the population and traditional service of any institute to the kingdom were almost the same as they are today. So how did the life of students change after the 31st December 2020?

What is Britain now?

Now, Britain has cut all ties with the EU. In the political context, such a move gave Britain greater autonomy in choosing its political course - we see this in migrant control, war support, expenditure, working towards Net Zero goals, restructuring of labour demographics - Brexit basically pulled Britain out of the bureaucratic noise of the EU. This allows legislation to be passed quicker and, to an extent, with more national interests in mind.

Because of this, Brexit has made conditions more difficult for EU students and somewhat better for other foreigners. Really, it just levelled the playing field, making conditions fair. Now, EU students have to pay the same fee as international students for their education, have the same travel restrictions and experience the same level of competition on the labour market.
Consequently, Brexit has turned away many interested EU students from coming to study and settling in the UK.
Slightly unexpectedly, Brexit has turned away more talent and workforce from Britain than it originally anticipated, at least in the short-term perspectives. The UK is currently struggling to fill jobs occupied by EU citizens who found Brexit conditions uninhabitable for their lifestyles, hence many new visa routes have been introduced. In this, the UK has done what it does best: make conditions fair and transparent, control the immigrants it attracts (selecting the best of the best), and make everything really expensive. The points-based system was introduced as the post-Brexit immigration system and has opened doors into the UK via routes such as the Graduate Visa, Skilled Worker Visa, Global Talent Visa and many more. The UK has also tried to make up for the loss of EU immigrants through the EU Settlement Scheme. The gov.uk website will walk you in detail through all of these, but in summary, the UK said: no more freebies!

What to expect?

Because of Brexit, I do not have to split this section into two: one for EU students and one for all other foreigners. As I have said, the UK has levelled the playing field. Although you can expect to experience a lesser EU presence on the island, I do not expect an influx of other foreign students here. In many conversations with my foreign colleagues and friends, I do start to recognise a trend toward disengagement from the UK and the stronger appeal to return home. My conclusion from this is that Brexit has increased competitiveness, and some do not want to recreate the Japanese scenario of being overworked to death. However, the UK does pay according to status, and you can always expect it to be fair in this - the more you need to spend, the more you get paid; the more you work, the more you get paid; the more expensive your living conditions, the more you get paid.
Competition always turns people away, but sports-man-like attitude is obeyed, and it is reassuring to know that if you fight, you achieve.