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Huge fee hikes for EU students who want to study art in the UK come into force from September

Visa issues and increased red tape could also deter European Union applicants, warn university leaders

Tuition fees for students from the European Union will increase dramatically following Brexit Photo: Antenna

Universities and art schools across the UK are bracing themselves for a difficult autumn when tuition fees for students from the European Union (EU) will increase dramatically following Britain’s departure from the bloc in January 2020. From September 2021, EU students will be charged fees at the international student rate for both undergraduate and postgraduate courses (previously EU students were charged the same as UK home students).

In addition, students from the EU will also no longer be able to apply for UK student loans. “The entire higher education sector is concerned about the impact higher fees and the removal of access to student finance will have on EU applicants to undergraduate courses,” says a spokeswoman for Goldsmiths, University of London, the alma mater of Damien Hirst and Sarah Lucas.

Alixe Bovey, the dean and deputy director at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, says: “EU students have always been an important part of the Courtauld’s community, and like all UK universities, we are concerned by anything that might dissuade them from studying here. Fee rises, visas and an increase in red tape following on from Brexit could all have a negative impact on EU students wanting to come to the UK, and it is a situation we are monitoring closely.” Tuition fees on its MA History of Art will jump from £11,000 to £23,000 for EU students.

The issue of visas for incoming EU students is also a concern. According to the British Council website, “if you [re: EU candidates] plan to arrive in the UK from 1 January 2021 onwards, you will need to apply for a student visa if you are studying a course which is longer than six months in length.” This application, which costs £348, needs to be accepted before arrival in the UK (Irish nationals living in the UK will continue to be eligible for home fee status and do not require visas).

The spokeswoman for Goldsmiths says: “We’ve been working closely with students, school counsellors, agents, advisers and partners across the EU over the past four years to ensure that everyone has the correct information and advice to support prospective students in making an informed decision, including changes to immigration status of students from 2021.” Fees for its BA Fine Art/History of Art courses will increase for EU applicants from £9,250 (home status) to £23,870 (international).

Crucially, most institutions are offering a range of scholarships and awards enabling EU students to offset costs. Paul Thompson, the vice-chancellor of the Royal College of Art, says: “There continues to be significant interest in RCA programmes from EU students and we have just implemented a £500,000 fund to attract students from under-represented and marginalised communities and will be hoping to offer this support to students who would otherwise find the cost of UK universities beyond their reach. The fund will increase to £1m per annum next year.” The full impact on EU applications across UK universities remains to be seen, not least because the entire sector is still dealing with Covid-19, he adds.

Other institutions—including the Courtauld, Glasgow School of Art, and the University of the Arts London (UAL)—all stress that they offer a wide range of scholarships to EU and international postgraduate students. UAL will offer the EU transitional award for eligible EU students starting their studies in 2021/22 whereby undergraduate applicants will receive a £10,000 fee reduction for every year of their course.

“We continue to carefully monitor the situation but are confident that creative education remains one of Britain’s great exports and that London is still a hugely attractive study destination,” the spokesman adds. MA course fees at UAL will increase for EU students from £12,280 to £25,880.

A government spokesperson says: “We have seen a significant rise in international students in recent years, with non-EU applications rising by 17% this year alone, and our recently-bolstered International Education Strategy aims to build on this. Our new Graduate Route and streamlined application processes also aims to attract students and support universities in sustainably recruiting at least 600,000 overseas students by 2030.”