Press release

MillionPlus welcomes government funding guarantee for EU students in 2017-18; outlines further recommendations ahead of Brexit

11 Oct 2016

MillionPlus, the Association for Modern Universities, has welcomed the government’s announcement that EU students in England will be able to access EU loan funding in the 2017-18 academic year.

The case for the government to make a decision was raised by MillionPlus Chair, Professor Dave Phoenix, with the Universities Minister, Jo Johnson MP, at the Conservative Party Conference.

The announcement has been made on the same day (11 October) that MillionPlus published a new policy paper, Trade in higher education services and research – negotiating Brexit.

The paper points out that UK universities have forged highly successful and beneficial relationships with the European Union and that the UK has been able to export education without tariff barriers to a market of 500 million people. The primary target of these exports has been EU students who study at UK universities and whose fees and off-campus expenditure is worth around £4bn of economic output to the UK each year.

In addition, the UK receives £836m in research funding and universities throughout the UK are leading projects in receipt of European structural funds which are adding value to local economies.

The MillionPlus report concludes that the UK should allow students from EU countries to become temporary residents with the right to live and study in the UK with minimal restrictions post-Brexit provided that reciprocal arrangements are applied to UK students studying in Europe. The policy paper also says that the Scottish Government, the Welsh Assembly and the Executive in Northern Ireland and the UK Government should guarantee to fund EU students on the same basis as their home students up to 2020 to avoid the UK losing market share.

Professor Dave Phoenix, Chair of MillionPlus and Vice-Chancellor of London South Bank University, said:

“I warmly welcome the government’s confirmation that EU students in England will be able to access loan funding in 2017-18 and hope that the governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will step up to the plate and make an early announcement that their EU students will also be funded on the same basis as their home students.

“Membership of the EU is currently worth at least £6bn in trade in higher education services and research and universities are leading European structural funding schemes which make a real and positive difference in regions throughout the UK.

“Replacing the value of this trade from sources wholly outside the EU is neither desirable nor can it be achieved overnight. There are very good reasons why Ministers should ensure that the UK’s higher education trading links with Europe are retained, albeit on potentially different but reciprocal terms.

“We believe that the Prime Minister must now make clear which Ministers and officials have responsibility to work with universities, not only on the different options but also on their potential consequences for the UK’s higher education sector.

“Today’s announcement is a step in the right direction. Our recommendations provide a basis for wider discussions to ensure that the UK’s universities are not disadvantaged during the Brexit negotiations and any transition period.”

The MillionPlus report recommends:

  • A temporary residency scheme for EU students post-Brexit that allows them to live and study in the UK with minimal restrictions, on the proviso that the same reciprocal arrangements apply to UK students who are accepted to study at universities and other institutions in EU states
  • The right to remain without any visa conditions to be given to EU staff working in UK universities at the point at which the UK leaves the EU
  • A work permit scheme offering UK universities the opportunity to recruit talented staff from EU countries to work in the UK with minimal restrictions
  • The UK government to guarantee that the total combined value of research funding from UK and EU sources allocated to UK universities at the point of leaving the EU will be at least maintained in real terms for a transitional period of 5 years
  • Future access by UK universities to EU funding programmes like Horizon 2020, European Structural and Investment Funds and participation in Erasmus student and staff mobility programmes to be included in Brexit negotiations 
  • All governments and administrations in the UK should confirm as a matter of urgency that they will continue to fund EU students on the same basis as their home students at least until 2020 and that the respective funding councils should, as a minimum, maintain funding for teaching and associated student numbers to their universities for a transitional period of five years.


Notes to editors

  1. MillionPlus is the Association for Modern Universities. More information can be found at
  2. Modern universities: key facts
  3. Trade in HE services and research - negotiating Brexit is available online here
  4. For further information or to arrange an interview, please contact Dan Blows on 020 7717 1658 or email

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