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Government publishes advice and information for education institutions on preparations for a no deal Brexit

  • United Kingdom
  • Education - Briefings



With the possibility of the UK exiting the EU without a deal increasing, the government has issued a number of documents setting out the preparations that organisations and businesses should be making to get ready for the UK leaving the EU on 29 March 2019 without a deal. Three of these documents are education related, covering higher education institutions, FE and apprenticeship providers and schools in England (the advice documents).

At the start of the advice documents the government states that, while leaving the EU with a deal remains the its top priority, “a responsible government must plan for every eventuality, including a no deal scenario” and that it is “intensifying and accelerating no deal planning to ensure we are fully prepared”.

One of the key concerns for institutions is what the prospect of a no deal would mean for their EU, EEA EFTA and Swiss nationals (for the purposes of this briefing these three groups of people will be collectively referred to as EEA citizens) who currently enjoy freedom of movement to come and work and study in the UK. In this regard, the government has also announced that in a no deal situation it would introduce the European Temporary Leave to Remain process. This is referred to in the advice documents and in this briefing we summarise what the European Temporary Leave to Remain process would entail and pick out some of the other key points from the advice documents.

Citizens’ rights

In a no deal exit, EEA citizens and their family members living in the UK by 29 March 2019 will be able to remain in the UK and work, study, and access benefits and services on broadly the same terms as now. If they are planning to continue living in the UK after 2020 they will need to apply to stay in the UK. The deadline for applying will be 31 December 2020 if the UK leaves the EU without a deal and the advice documents state that education institutions can play a role in bringing the Settlement Scheme to the attention of EEA students and members of staff. Irish citizens’ right to live in the UK will not change after the UK has left the EU.

However, for EEA citizens who are not living in the UK by 29 March 2019, the position is different. In the event the UK leaves the EU in a no deal scenario, the government has stated that it will not be bound by the implementation period arrangements agreed with the EU and set out in the draft Withdrawal Agreement. Instead, it will seek to end free movement as soon as possible through the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill which was introduced to Parliament on 20 December 2018.

Once free movement has ended, EEA citizens and their family members arriving in the UK will be subject to the (yet to be introduced) skills-based immigration system, details of which were set out in the white paper published on 19 December 2018 (see our briefing of 20 December 2018). The government accepts, however, that it will take some time to implement this new system, and therefore temporary transitional arrangements will apply from 30 March 2019 to provide some continuity for EEA citizens and businesses in the UK. The transition period will be in place until 31 December 2020.

During this transitional period EEA citizens will be able to enter the UK by showing either a valid national identity card or a passport and will be permitted to work and study on arrival. If, however, they wish to stay longer than three months, they will need to apply online to the Home Office for leave to remain within three months of arrival. Subject to identity, criminality and security checks, leave to remain will be granted for 36 months which will include permission to work and study. This would provide them with European Temporary Leave to Remain. However, this leave would be non-extendable, temporary leave so those who wish to stay longer-term would need to apply in due course under the future border and immigration system arrangements.

Should a Brexit deal be agreed, the position is more straightforward. EEA citizens would be able to live and work in the UK without further restriction until 31 December 2020. It would be necessary for them to apply for settled or pre-settled status before 30 June 2021. Those arriving from 2021 onwards would need to qualify for leave to remain within new immigration requirements.

Advice document on no deal preparations for higher education institutions

Other areas covered in this document include the following:

Student finance

EEA citizens (including their family members) who meet the relevant eligibility requirements, and study at UK universities, are currently eligible for ‘home fee’ status on the same basis as those with settled status. Subject to fulfilling eligibility requirements, they are also able to apply for higher education and further education tuition fee loans as well as maintenance support. The precise entitlement to student support differs across the different parts of the UK and the eligibility criteria for access to student finance that apply to EEA EFTA nationals, to Swiss nationals and to EU citizens, differ.

The government points out that it announced last year that EEA citizens and their family members, starting courses in England in the 2019 to 2020 academic year, will remain eligible for undergraduate and postgraduate financial support and Advanced Learner Loans from Student Finance England for the duration of their course, providing they meet the residency requirements. Similar assurances have already been provided for EEA students starting courses in earlier academic years.

Entitlement to student finance and home fees status for EEA students starting a course at an English institution in academic years after the 2019 to 2020 academic year is said to be “under consideration”.

Devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have given similar assurances. However, as funding for higher education is devolved, and differs between the administrations, the government states that it is a matter for the relevant devolved administrations to explain to their students how they are likely to be affected.

Data protection

The document reminds institutions that if the UK leaves the EU on 29 March 2019 without a deal, they will need to ensure they continue to be compliant with data protection law. For those that operate only within the UK there will be no immediate change. However, for those that operate internationally or exchange personal data with partners in other countries, or whose data is hosted in the EU, there may be changes that need to be made ahead of the UK leaving the EU to ensure minimal risk of disruption.

In such cases the government recommends that institutions should review whether they would be affected. If so, early action is advised as changes may take some time to implement. The document refers to the information on the Information Commissioner’s Office website setting out 6 steps that organisations should take to be prepared for EU exit.

EU Funding

The government recommends that Erasmus+ and European Solidarity Corps projects that are currently contracted continue being delivered, and that applications are submitted to the UK National Agency for the 2019 Call for Proposals as normal. The document refers to the guidance recently issued in the form of a technical notice.

The document also reminds institutions of the previously published information on the Horizon 2020 underwrite guarantee and the extension to the guarantee which is relevant to universities who are in receipt of Horizon 2020 funding or who are bidding for such funding.

Advice document on no deal preparations for FE and apprenticeship providers

In addition to the points on citizens’ rights, data protection and Erasmus+ mentioned above this document also covers:

Eligibility for places and funding

EEA citizens within scope of the citizens’ rights EU Settlement Scheme will continue to be eligible for funding for further education and training. This covers young people aged 16 to 19 years and adults aged 19+. They will also be able to access benefits and public services on broadly the same terms as now. Receipt of certain benefits may also qualify students for free schools meals in further education.

The document refers institutions to the ESFA’s documents ‘Funding guidance for young people 2018 to 2019: funding regulations’ and the ‘Adult education: performance management and funding rules 2018 to 2019’ which set out the eligibility rules that apply for all of the funding year 1 August 2018 to 31 July 2019 and provides that EEA citizens are eligible for funding.

The government says it expects to publish the funding guidance for 2019 to 2020 in spring 2019.

European Social Fund

In case of a no deal, the government’s guarantee for EU programmes, including the European Social Fund (ESF), will apply to projects that would have been funded under the 2014-20 ESF programme. Learners currently undertaking an ESF programme will be able to continue with their study and institutions in receipt of funding will be covered by the underwrite guarantee.

The government has published guidance for organisations in receipt of EU funding and on the European Social Fund and links to those are contained in the document.

Advice document on no deal preparations for schools in England

In addition to the points on citizens’ rights and data protection and Erasmus+ mentioned above this document also covers:

School places

The document points out that any child living in the UK can apply for and access a school place in England irrespective of migration status. This will continue after exit from the EU.

In a no deal scenario, following the UK’s exit from the EEA citizens living in the UK by 29 March 2019 can remain in the country and access benefits and public services, including education, on broadly the same terms as now but would need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme by 31 December 2020 to remain beyond this date.

Applications for a school place can be made from overseas by those with a right of residence in the UK, but admission authorities and local authorities may require an applicant to provide proof of residence in the UK so that schools can apply their admission arrangements. UK nationals returning from the EU should be considered for admission to a school on the same basis as people living in the UK.

Recognition of teaching qualifications

Currently, EEA qualified teachers have the right to have their professional status and qualifications considered for the award of Qualified Teacher Status and EEA professionals whose qualifications have been recognised before 29 March 2019, or who have applied for a recognition decision before that time, will retain this right in a no deal exit.

However, in a no deal scenario, the current system of reciprocal recognition of professional qualifications between the EEA and the UK will not apply after 29 March 2019. As a result the government states that, after leaving the EU, it will ensure that professionals with EEA qualifications, including teachers, will still have a means to seek recognition of their professional qualifications through a new system. Further information on this will be published shortly.


Whilst much of the information contained in the advice documents, particularly in relation to citizens rights, will only be directly relevant in a no deal situation, it does make sense, given the current uncertainty, for institutions to review the government’s advice and consider any necessary steps so they are as prepared as possible in the event of a no deal situation.