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What Brexit Means for Your Studies Abroad

On 31 December 2020, the United Kingdom will fully leave the European Union as the eleven-month Transition Period comes to an end. This means that the UK will break its remaining ties with the bloc - and it’s all-change for many international students in the UK as well as British students studying on the continent. 

Feb 6, 2024
  • Study Abroad in the United Kingdom
  • Study Abroad in Europe

On 31 December 2020, the United Kingdom completed its exit from the European Union as the eleven-month Transition Period ended. This means that the UK has now completely left - and it’s all-change for many international students in the UK as well as British students in the EU.

The information on this page tells you all need to know about what the Withdrawal Agreement means for your studies abroad.

In Brief

On 23 June 2016, the UK voted to leave the EU. The UK formally left the EU on 31 January 2020, but continued to follow EU rules and regulations for an eleven month-period known as the Transition Period. Before leaving, the British government secured and ratified an exit treaty, known as the Withdrawal Agreement, with the EU. The treaty was ratified in January 2020. The Transition Period was agreed upon in the Withdrawal Agreement. But this period has now ended. This means that the UK has completed its separation from the EU.

Irish Nationals in the UK

Due to the CTA (Common Travel Area) arrangements in place between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, there will be no changes to the status of Irish nationals in the UK. Irish nationals are still able to freely live, work, study and vote in the UK.


Other EU, EEA and Swiss Nationals in the UK

Under the Withdrawal Agreement, EU nationals who live, work or study in the UK can continue to enjoy the exact same rights as they did when the UK was in the EU. The British government has an online registration portal. This is called the EU Settlement Scheme. All EU nationals, whether their stay is long or short term, must register through this portal. The scheme is taking applications up until 30 June 2021. To be eligible for this scheme, you must have moved to the UK no later than 31 December 2020.

If you have lived in the UK for five years or more, you should automatically be issued Settled Status. This grants you permanent residency in the UK. If you have lived in the UK for less than five years at the time of application, or if you don’t intend to stay after your studies, you will be issued Pre-Settled Status. This should automatically convert into Settled Status once you reach the five-year mark, although the British government has not explicitly said how this will work in practice. 

You won’t be issued any physical proof of your registration or status. You’ll instead be issued with a number. It is incredibly important that you keep a note of this number as you may need it when accessing public services like health care or when opening or transferring a bank account after 31 December 2020.

It’s also a good idea to print out several copies of the web page and email that confirm your status in the UK. It never hurts to have a hard copy and several spares when it comes to something this important.

If you’re studying in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, tuition fees may be at the forefront of your mind. Most universities in these three provinces have agreed to keep tuition fees as they are for students who started their courses no later than 31 December 2020. Not all universities have agreed to do this, so you’ll need to check with individual universities before making any commitments. The Scottish government has announced that it will seek to keep university courses free for all EU, EEA and Swiss nationals, regardless of the final outcome of Brexit. In Scotland, this has cross-party support.

From now on, if you’re planning on studying at an English, Welsh or Northern Irish university, then you will probably have to pay significantly higher fees than UK and Irish nationals. You will also need to apply for a study visa as non-EU, EEA and Swiss nationals already must.


Nationals from Outside the EU

On 1 January 2021, the UK introduced a completely new immigration system. It’s the biggest shake-up to UK immigration law in decades. At the center of this is the fact that the UK has now introduced a points-based immigration system, much like the one Australia uses. Full details of this system can be found here.

This probably won’t affect your ability to study in the UK too much. But it could involve a different visa if you want to look for work after graduation.

British Nationals in the EU, the EEA and Switzerland

Check with the immigration department in the country in which you're living for information on what you need to do now.

The Withdrawal Agreement as well as other pieces of EU legislation do set out some basic requirements that all EU member states must meet when it comes to registering UK nationals post-Brexit.

Most EU member states have active groups for British nationals. Your local group should have the most up-to-the-minute information about what’s set to happen next for Britons in whichever member state you’re living - and what your next steps should be.

If you are staying in the EU, the EEA or Switzerland for a longer period of time, then you might have some issues with any UK bank accounts that you currently have. Multiple UK banks have confirmed that they will charge their non-UK based customers for keeping their accounts now that Brexit has been fully completed - even if they're British citizens. It's not clear how people who intend to come back to the UK at a later date might be affected by this decision.