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Posted on 21 Jan '21

What Brexit Means for Masters Degrees, PhDs and Other Students

The UK left the EU on 1 January 2021. This means that postgraduate fees, funding and visa requirements will change for EU students in the UK and for UK students in the EU.

But these changes don't mean you can't study abroad in the UK or Europe and funding is still available for you to do so. Here's a quick explanation of what Brexit does and doesn't mean for Masters degrees and PhDs.

EU students in the UK

For courses beginning after 1 August 2021, much it costs to study in the UK as an EU student now depends on when you came to the UK and when you will start your course.

If you arrive in the UK before 31 December 2020 and apply to the EU Settlement Scheme before 30 June 2021 you will:

  • Pay the same domestic Masters fees and PhD fees as a UK student
  • Have access to student finance, including Masters loans and PhD loans

If you arrive in the UK after 31 December 2020 and / or have not applied to the EU Settlement Scheme before 30 June 2021 you will:

  • Pay higher international fees for your Masters or PhD
  • Not have access to student finance

All EU students will be eligible to apply for full UKRI PhD studentships for programmes beginning after 1 August 2021. You will also be able to access other international Masters funding or international PhD funding.

Students from Ireland, Switzerland and the EEA

EEA and Swiss students in the UK are subject to the same changes as EU students. Irish students are still covered by the Common Travel Area. See our guide for more detailed information.

What is the EU Settlement Scheme?

The EU Settlement Scheme allows EU citizens who already live in the UK to start applying for settled status and keep some of the rights they had before Brexit. You can only apply if you arrived in the UK before 31 December 2020 and have until 30 June 2021 to do so.

There are two statuses you can receive through the scheme:

  • If you have been living continuously in the UK for five years or more you may be eligible for settled status with no limit on the time you can remain in the UK
  • If you have been living continuously in the UK for less than five years you may be eligible for pre-settled status with the right to remain in the UK for up to five years (during which time you can become eligible to apply for settled status)

Both settled status and pre-settled status allow you to live and study in the UK as you do now, though there are some limits on the amount of time you can spend outside the UK. See the UK Government Website for more information.

If you want to take part in the EU Settlement Scheme you must apply before 30 June 2021.

UK students in the EU

UK students will no longer count as EU students when studying abroad in Europe. This might affect the fees you pay for a Masters or PhD and the funding you have access to, but it won't necessarily do so. Some EU countries don't charge extra for international study; a few don't charge anything at all.

The best place to find more information is in our detailed and regularly updated guides to postgraduate study in Europe.

Student visas

Students can still travel between the UK and EU for up to three months without a visa, but you'll need to spend longer than this to complete a Masters or PhD abroad.

New EU students coming to study in the UK should apply for a visa through the student route.

UK students coming to study in the EU should check the visa information in our detailed guides to different countries.

Other FAQs about Brexit and postgraduate study

We've tried to make the information above as clear as possible and that’s meant leaving aside some other questions. These are covered below, along with some extra clarification for anything that’s confusing about Brexit (. . .).

What does Brexit mean for Erasmus?

The UK will no longer be a part of Erasmus from the start of the next cycle (2021-2027). Instead it is creating its own replacement Turing Scheme to support UK students studying abroad across the world. It isn't clear whether this will cover postgraduate study, or whether funding will be available for EU and international students in the UK.

We'll have more details and explanation as soon as we can – and we'll make sure we update you.

Which UK postgraduate funding is affected by Brexit?

Before Brexit, EU students in the UK had access to:

New EU students won't have automatic access to Masters and PhD loans from 1 August 2021, but you will be able to apply for a full Research Council studentship.

Can Brexit stop me studying abroad?

No. You’ll still be able to study abroad in the UK or EU (as plenty of other ‘international students’ do already). It’s just that your fees, funding and entry requirements have changed.

What if Brexit happens during my degree?

EU students already studying in the UK before Brexit are covered by fee and funding guarantees. UK students studying in the EU are likely to be covered by similar guarantees. Check with your university if you aren't sure.

When will Brexit actually happen?

Brexit has now happened. The withdrawal period ended on 31 December 2020 and the UK left the EU on 1 January 2021.

Further information

It's easy to get swamped with news, information and, of course, opinion, about Brexit.

The thing to bear in mind is that not everything you read will be relevant to students – and a lot of what is hasn't been confirmed yet.

If you are looking for good sources of further information, we'd recommend the following:

  • The PIE News – here you'll find plenty of information on international education in general, and a quick search for 'Brexit' should turn up relevant news stories and updates
  • The BBC Brexit guide – information here isn't specific to students, but it does provide a clear, simple and up-to-date 'explainer' for the ongoing Brexit process
  • The UK Government's Brexit advice – these pages summarise key information for British citizens in Europe after Brexit and some cover education

You can also get in touch with us using editor[at]findaphd.com if there's something you're not sure about. We can't explain everything about Brexit, but we will do our best to answer questions about postgraduate study.

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