Currently, UK universities generally set two rates of tuition fees for new undergraduate students: Home Student fees and Overseas Students fees. Home Student fees, which are heavily subsidised, were originally established for UK nationals normally resident1 in the UK. Under EU law, this was extended to embrace EU nationals, including British nationals, normally resident in the UK, the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland. There are separate provisions for other categories of applicants but they generally do not affect Spanish children and the children of British nationals resident in Spain. In other words, most Spanish children and the children of British and other EU expats in Spain are entitled to pay fees at the Home Student rate rather than at the much higher Overseas Student rate.
Furthermore, they are currently entitled to take out an income-contingent loan to cover their fees which becomes gradually repayable only after graduation and once their income exceeds a certain figure, currently set at £ 21,000 per annum. This means that students pay no fees up front and have to cover only their general living costs during their time in the UK.
In addition, students admitted to Oxford and Cambridge are exempt from paying additional college fees at present.
The Home Student rate in the UK for the academic year 2017-2018 has been set at £ 9,250 per annum. Nevertheless, regional government grants and subsidies can further reduce or even eliminate these fees for Scottish, Welsh, Northern Irish and non-UK EU students attending universities in the respective territories.
Overseas Student rates reflect the true costs of courses and, in rising order of cost, are broadly classified under three headings: Classroom-based/non-laboratory based; Laboratory based; and Clinical.
What might change after Brexit?
A lot will depend on the detailed negotiations for UK withdrawal from the EU but, unless special arrangements are agreed to maintain or modify the current situation, the UK would no longer be bound to consider the residents of the EU as Home Students and would be free to classify all applicants resident in the European Union, including Britons resident in Spain and other EU countries as Overseas students.
If this were to happen, these students would:
-have to pay tuition fees at the Overseas Student rate;
-have no access to Tuition Fee loans – i.e. all fees would have to be paid up front;
-have to pay additional college fees if they go to Oxford or Cambridge
The following table showing the Overseas Rate at different universities and for different degrees will give an idea of just how big a change this would be from the current position:
The government has published a statement guaranteeing that students joining courses in the Autumn of 2017 will qualify to pay Home Student fees for the duration of their studies and it may be that as time goes on, similar reassurances will be given year on year until Brexit is a reality. The fact that the government felt obliged to issue this time-constrained statement in the first place indicates that a change in the current situation is a very real possibility.
1 In practice, normally resident is generally taken to mean resident in the same country as their parents or guardian so the boarding of a child of UK parents settled in California (or possibly post-Brexit Spain) would not normally satisfy the residential requirement although there are some exceptions to this rule.