There are over 140,000 EU students at UK universities (1/3 of all international students) and over 53,000 EU staff members (over 58% of all international staff). Figures from Universities UK for 2018/19. The UK government wishes to continue to attract high numbers of EU students to the UK in the future.

Challenges faced:

  • Covid-19: Many students have not been able to travel to the UK to take up places on courses for 2020/21 due to travel restrictions, personal or family illnesses caused by the pandemic. Others have returned to family homes outside the UK and will not be able to return to the UK before 31/12/20.
  1. Individuals with pre-settled status only lose this after 2 years outside the UK; however after six months, they have to restart their period of “continuous residence” for the purposes of acquiring settled status.
  2. Individuals who fail to come to the UK before 11pm on 31 December 2020 will not be eligible to apply for pre-settled status. They will have to pay for a visa to come to the UK. Yet government advises against travel to the UK to counter the pandemic.
  • Confusion: There is confusion amongst students about the eligibility criteria for pre-settled status. There is also a lack of information about the conditions for EU citizens to access grants and loans for the 2021/22 academic year. The Government is also yet to confirm publicly that those with permanent residence will be allowed an extended absence of up to 12 months if the absence is due to COVID.
  1. This is leading to a rise in mental health issues amongst EU students e.g. anxiety and depression and the feeling they are not welcome in the UK.
  2. Universities and advice centres are unable to support prospective students due to a lack of clarity in the information they have available from government.

Changes needed

  1. More clarity in government communications about pre-settled status as well as regarding access criteria for higher education courses.
  2. More consistency of approach to remove contradictory advice, such as don’t travel to the UK because of COVID v. travel to UK before 31/12/30 to secure status.
  3. More compassion in relation to individual cases of hardship and mental distress.

The above is a summary of a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Citizens’ Rights which took place on Tuesday, 8 December and was chaired by Baroness Julie Smith of Newnham.

The guest speakers at the meeting were:

Harry Anderson, Policy Manager (Immigration), Universities UK and

Hillary Gyebi-Ababio, Vice-President for Higher Education, NUS

Jack Juckes, Vice-President Welfare, Queen Mary’s Student Union

Tiana Dinard-Samuel, Vice-President Communities (QMSU)