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Ex-minister says Government risks appearing ‘against young people’ if it hikes EU student fees after Brexit

3 min read

A former Tory minister has warned the Government that it risks appearing “against young people” if it ploughs ahead with plans to hike EU students’ fees after Brexit.

Sam Gyimah, who quit the frontbench over ministers’ approach to leaving the European Union, said the “cumulative impact” of some of its policies risked “undermining” the higher education sector.

It came after leaked plans, revealed by BuzzFeed, showed ministers are weighing up a hike in tuition fees and an end to financial support for European students from 2021.

EU nationals currently pay the same amount as UK students at English universities – £9,250 a year – but could be made to fork out the rate paid by other international students of up to £38,000 a year for top courses.

Speaking during a Commons debate on the row, former univerisities minister Mr Gyimah said: “If we want our university sector to continue to be world-leading then our action must match our ambition.

“Whilst no decision has yet been made on this specific policy, the cumulative impact of some our policy decisions, whether it’s the immigration cap, which would make it more difficult for researchers from abroad to come and work and study here, whether its policy which would hike up fees for EU students or lack of clarity on Erasmus, the cumulative effect could be that we are undermining the university sector.

“Also taking steps that would make it more difficult for young people from this country to live, study and abroad and that this government could be portrayed as one that is against young people.”

Former Education Secretary Justine Greening also criticised the proposal, telling BuzzFeed: “As one company put it to me recently, Britain is in a talent war.

"We won’t be successful in that if we put up more barriers to encouraging talent, from home or abroad."

Meanwhile the European Parliament's chief Brexit negotiator, Guy Verhofstadt, confirmed he had written to Theresa May to outline his "deep concern".

Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner told the Commons: “The very opportunities that we offer young people from across the EU are being taken away.

“It is not in our interest to build walls between our world class universities and our nearest neighbours yet this government is committed to doing exactly that.”


Universities minister Chris Skidmore said that “no decision” had yet been made on EU students’ access to student finance and that the Government would give “sufficient notice” to prospective students from 2020 on whether they would face higher fees.

“In July 2018 we announced that students from the EU starting courses in England in the 19-20 academic year will continue to be eligible for home fee status, which means they will be charged the same tuition fees as UK students and have access to tuition fees for the duration of their studies," he said.

“Applications for students studying in academic year 2020-2021 open in September 2019 and the Government will provide sufficient notice for prospective EU students and the wider higher education sector on fee arrangements ahead of this 2020-21 academic year, and for subsequent years also, which will obviously reflect upon our future relationship with the EU and the negotiations.”

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