LONDON — U.K. universities are offering EU nationals cut-price tuition fees after the Brexit transition period ends, amid fears the numbers of students coming to Britain from the Continent could plummet.
At least one institution is offering hopeful applicants from the EU an “automatic fee reduction” to bring costs in line with charges for U.K. nationals. But lawyers have questioned whether such an offer is legal, and whether it could breach discrimination laws.
Once the Brexit transition period ends, EU nationals who do not already live in the U.K. or who are not Irish nationals will no longer have “home fee” status, meaning they will no longer pay the same as British nationals and will lose access to U.K. state financial support while studying. Instead they will have to pay the same higher rate as other international students.
The U.K. government estimates there could be a shortfall in EU nationals attending U.K. universities of up to 20 percent — and that was before the coronavirus crisis.
Some universities, which have the power to set their own fees and admissions rules, are making generous offers to EU nationals.
Such offers could be discriminatory under U.K. equalities laws, as they could amount to discrimination based on nationality.
Royal Holloway University in London is offering eligible EU students who start their courses in September 2021 “an automatic fee reduction which brings your fee into line with the fee paid by U.K. students” that will apply for the duration of the course.
However, two higher education lawyers said such offers could be discriminatory under U.K. equalities laws,