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Article 50: what students can do

Wednesday 29 March 2017 NUS News

Theresa May has today ‘triggered’ Article 50 and the process of leaving the European Union now moves to the negotiation stages. The terms in which we leave will have a profound impact on our future. Here’s how it could affect students and the education sector…

In a climate where a hard Brexit is a continuing fear – especially for students who overwhelmingly voted to remain in the EU in the first place – there are a number of key questions and issues that students will want answers to.

Now that article 50 has been triggered, we’ve pulled together the top four of these issues that students – and the education sector more broadly – will be looking out for. These are whether the UK’s Brexit deal will:

  1. Limit student mobility - Leaving the EU will threaten our continued participation in the Erasmus Plus programme and limits the transformational experience of studying and working abroad to those that can afford it. Student mobility around Europe is integral to transformational experiences and the Erasmus programme or alternative programmes like it should be a priority in negotiations. 

  2. Place years of academic collaboration on science and technology in jeopardy.

  3. Increase uncertainty for EU nationals - for academics who are EU nationals, there’s a lack of clarity about their continued employment and residence, it also affects students who are currently studying here. EU students are not bargaining chips. Students who are already here or who will begin courses in the UK before the UK has formally left the EU need urgent clarity about their status, and this should not be contingent on what the EU offers UK citizens.

  4. See international students face even more hostility - a hard Brexit will continue the hostile approach to international students, who have become easy targets – both on campuses and through government policies. We believe urgent action is needed to show that international students are welcome. We also believe that international students must be removed from net migration figures if the government is genuine about creating the “truly global” Britain that they speak of.

“UK students benefit massively from programmes such as the Erasmus scheme, which offer them the opportunity to study across Europe. Protecting these opportunities needs to be a key consideration in Brexit negotiations. We also urgently seek clarity around the future of EU students and staff.

The government needs to give reassurance to academics from the EU and to EU students currently studying in the UK, or who will begin studying here before the country formally exits the EU. EU staff and students make up a huge part of our University communities, with over 125,000 students and 17% of academic staff coming from EU countries. These people should not be living in fear and uncertainty.

We want to assure students that we will be lobbying the government to protect student mobility across Europe, to remove international students from net migration figures. Keeping the Lords' recent amendment to the HE Bill will act to reassure international students and academics that they are welcome here.”  

- Mostafa Rajaai, NUS International Students’ Officer

What happens next?

NUS will continue to make the case for students directly to the government and parliament as the Brexit negotiations get underway.

Over the next month, we’re calling upon students write to their MPs and MEPs on protecting the status of students coming to the UK; on prioritising student mobility in negotiations; and, on ensuring the quality of education we get in the UK is not put at risk.