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Young Britons living in France: what study rights in Britain?

Post-Brexit rules have an impact on university fees and student loans

People living in the UK apply depending on where they live; young Britons abroad apply to the body in the country whose university they wish to go to Pic: Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock

The rules have changed, post-Brexit, regarding UK university fees and student loans for young people from British families living in France and other EU countries. 

Young people of only EU nationality wanting to go to the UK to study are now obliged to pay much higher ‘international’ rates and have no right to course fees or maintenance loans. 

This is not necessarily the case for those of British nationality, some of whom can still access ‘home’ fees and loans, but there are conditions. 

Questions have also been raised by some Britons abroad about young people being asked to provide British National Insurance (NI) numbers to access loans, which those who have never worked in the UK do not have. 

It is now also impossible to obtain a means-tested French grant for study in the UK, with minor exceptions. 

Read more: No grants and pet travel fees: UK’s post-Brexit status ‘is costing us’

The UK is divided into four nations with different finance bodies and, in some cases, varying rules. There are four student finance agencies to apply to. 

People living in the UK apply depending on where they live; young Britons abroad apply to the body in the country whose university they wish to go to. 

Applications are then processed – other than Scottish ones – by the Student Loans Company (SLC). SLC also makes all the payments and collects all the repayments. 

Britons abroad applying in England and Wales can usually have home fees and both kinds of loan if the course starts before 2028 and the applicant meets several residency tests. 

They should have been living in the EEA/Switzerland on December 31, 2020, should have lived in the EEA/Switzerland, UK or Gibraltar for at least the last three years, and they should have lived continuously in one of these areas between December 31, 2020 and the start of the course. 

With regard to NI numbers for these applications, the forms ask for NI numbers, but official guidance is to leave this blank if you do not have one. 

SLC still processes the applications on other merits, and afterwards will send them to the DWP. 

The DWP will arrange for an NI application pack with covering letter to be sent out. 

The Scottish government told us, regarding applying there, that UK nationals who have not lived in the UK can qualify for the ‘rUK rate’, capped at £9,250 (as for English university fees), intermediate between Scottish and ‘international’ rates. 

They can access tuition fee loans if they can show they are moving to Scotland for more than just ‘educational purposes’, ie. they are planning to make a life there. 

UK nationals who had three or more years living in Scotland before moving to the EU can have Scottish ‘home’ fees and living cost support. 

A spokeswoman said the SLC requires those eligible for loans to have an NI number. The same rules as detailed above apply to this.

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