Living cost support changes for EU nationals

02 March 2016

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) consulted in 2014 on its proposal to change EU nationals' eligibility for living cost support.

On 1 March 2016, BIS published its conclusions.

Non-UK EU nationals who intend to start a course of study in the academic year 2016/17 will have to meet a longer residence requirement if they want to apply for a maintenance loan for living costs from Student Finance England. The residence requirement will change from three years' ordinary residence to five years' ordinary residence in the UK and Islands.

The relevant regulations will need to be amended, at which point we will have more information. However, as far as we know, this change will not affect EU nationals' eligibility for home fee status and for tuition fee loans. It does not affect eligibility for full support for migrant workers and their families. We are also not aware of any proposals to change eligibility for living cost support for students who apply for support in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

The report confirms on page 12 that this change will not affect British citizens or eligibility for Research Council awards. It also states on page 8 that it will not affect non-UK EU nationals who are already studying and eligible for a maintenance loan under this provision.

Pages 7 and 8 of the report are concerned with alternative providers of higher education:

  • students who wish to study with alternative providers will be required to have English language skills equivalent to 5.5 - 6.5 on the IELTS scale before they start their course
  • alternative providers whose students are eligible for student finance will be required to provide Key Information Set date for all their courses
  • the performance of alternative providers will be linked to control of student numbers

BIS has provided its reasons for this change:

  • a number of other EU member states impose a five-year residency requirement on EU nationals but not on nationals of those countries
  • recently, there have been large increases in the numbers of EU nationals who are eligible for full support
  • there are greater difficulties in recovering loans from EU nationals, who are more likely than UK nationals to leave the UK after study

BIS acknowledges that the impact of this change will need to be monitored and plans to work with Student Finance England.

Students who are affected by this change are:

  • non-UK EU nationals
  • who have lived in the UK and Islands for at least three years but under five years before their course starts
  • who plan to start their course of undergraduate study in the 2016/17 academic year and
  • who would apply to Student Finance England for help with meeting living costs, which depends on where the student is or has been living, not necessarily where the education provider is located

They should in most cases be eligible for home fee status and for a tuition fee loan. They will not become eligible for full support part way through their course if they start it before they have met the five-year residence requirement. Their options are:

  • study the course without a loan to help with living costs
  • postpone study until the five-year residence requirement is met
  • find alternative sources of funding
  • work in the UK because migrant workers who have been ordinarily resident in the European Economic Area, including the UK, and/or Switzerland for three years remain eligible for full support; the work must not be marginal and the student must continue to work throughout the course of study
  • check whether their home country offers portable student finance so they can rely on that instead of UK student finance

Note that students who move to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland in order to receive education cannot apply to the student finance authorities in those countries. If they have been living in England before they start their course elsewhere in the UK, they are are expected to apply to Student Finance England and will be affected by this change.

We will provide more information when the amending regulations have been published.