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15th March 2016

Government restrict living cost support for EU students in the UK

NUS is ‘outraged’ that the government are making it harder for EU students to receive financial support whilst studying in the UK

The government has announced plans to make it harder for EU students in the UK to access to financial support with living costs.

Currently, EU nationals studying in the UK are entitled to apply for support for their living costs if they have lived here for more than three years. But this looks as if it will change as the government have increased the years of residency to five years as a new requirement. Given that most degree programmes are three years long, the government are essentially removing the accessibility of financial support from EU national students.

The National Union of Students have spoken out against the government stating the changes will have an “enormous impact” on those who cannot afford to study without extra financial support for their living costs. They reported that these students “will be shut out of the education system and forced to put their lives on hold.”

The student campaigners say it is difficult to tell exactly how many students will be affected by the latest announcement but previous statistics show that “about 35,000 students from the EU applied for support for the 2014/2015 academic year, but a proportion of them will have been in the UK for five years or more.”

University minister Jo Johnson justifies the announcement by comparing the UK to other EU countries such as France and Germany, “who generally require five years’ residency in the home country before students become eligible for living cost support.”  Mr. Johnson adds: “The higher education student support budget is under pressure from increasing numbers of applicants from the EU, and the government is taking steps to manage the burden on the taxpayer.”

Johnson states that the government “recognise this will have a deterrent effect as EU nationals may not meet the proposed new residency requirement.” He adds: “It is not the intention to deny access to higher education in England.”

Responding directly to this is NUS International Students’ Officer, Mostafa Rajaai: “This is yet another attack on the rights of migrants in the UK. The government doesn’t miss a chance to vilify migrants for not contributing enough to society, yet it keeps putting up barriers to prevent them from attending college and university.”

The change will impact students beginning their courses 2016/17, who will have to demonstrate five years residency. It will not affect EU students already studying in the UK, who will be entitled to the existing requirements of only demonstrating three years residency.

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