Political Officer, British Embassy Vienna
Guest blogger for Leigh Turner
Part of UK in Austria
11th August 2020 Vienna, Austria
Good news for students in Austria and the UK
The UK education sector is one of the most popular destinations for international – EU and non-EU – students to study abroad. Worldwide, only the US attracts larger numbers. Academics like working in the UK, too: in 2017-18, 20% of staff working at UK higher education institutions were international, with almost 60% of that 20% coming from the EU.
UK higher education has a well-established reputation for high quality. There are four UK providers amongst the top ten in the world, and 18 providers in the top 100. UK universities also have an outstanding reputation for world-class research. This has been showcased during this global pandemic, as many are at the forefront of global efforts to understand and combat the coronavirus.
In 2017–18, there were 458,490 international students studying at UK higher education institutions (139,145 EU students and 319,340 non-EU international students), accounting for 19.6% of the total student population in the UK. In 2017-18, the top five sending countries for international students were China, India, the US, Hong Kong and Malaysia. The top sending countries within the EU were Italy, France and Germany. The 2017-18 figures show a slight increase in the number of European students choosing to study in the UK of around +2.5% compared to 2016-17.
International students and staff, including those from Austria, make a vital contribution to the UK’s academic community and to the overall success of its education institutions: Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive of Universities UK describes them as ‘an integral part of our society and culture’. UK universities do their utmost to ensure international students feel welcome, regardless of nationality, ethnic or national origins. The UK Government hugely values the contribution that students from across the world make to the UK, and is proud that so many international students, including from Austria, choose to study in the UK each year.
Strong Austrian-British education partnerships
With a long-standing good relationship in the field of higher education, there are strong cooperation partnerships between researchers at Austrian and British universities and we exchange students in both directions to mutual benefit.
In the 2017/18 academic year, there were more than 2,000 Austrian students doing their undergraduate/postgraduate study in the UK and over 600 UK students in Austria. The UK was Austria’s third most frequent collaborative research partner in 2018 and is the second most popular destination for Austrians applying for a mobility scholarship to study at a British university (with 200 scholarships granted every academic year). We therefore strongly welcome the announcement this summer that the Austrian Government will extend mobility scholarships to Austrian students wanting to study in the UK after 31 December 2020. In reverse, UK nationals resident in Austria before the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020 will continue to have the right to equal treatment due to the Withdrawal Agreement and can therefore continue to receive study grants under the same conditions as EU citizens. For more information on UK nationals wanting to study in Austria please see the Austrian Federal Chancellery Website.
Studying in the UK in the 2020/21 academic year
In light of the UK’s departure from the EU, the UK Government understands the desire for clarity that exists among those who have chosen or are thinking of coming to study in the UK in the near future. Over the last months, the UK Government has made several announcements to help give more certainty to students from the EU. The overall message remains clear: for students from the EU, EEA-EFTA states or Switzerland who are living in the UK or arrive in the UK on or before 31 December 2020, there is very little that will change.
EU Students arriving in the UK by 31 December 2020 will not require a visa but will need to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme to ensure they are able to complete their studies and to be able to stay and continue to work, study and access benefits broadly on the same basis as before.
EU/EEA students starting a course at a university or further education institution in the UK at any point in the 2020/21 academic year will therefore remain eligible for ‘home’ tuition fee status and will be able to access financial support as in previous years – provided they meet the residency requirements. These rules will apply for the duration of these degree courses, even if the course starts after the transition period but still in the 2020/21 academic year. But EU/EEA students starting a course in the 2021/22 academic year in England or Scotland (other than those in scope of the Citizens’ Rights protections under the Withdrawal Agreement) will no longer be eligible for home fee status nor able to access student finance support. Authorities in Wales and Northern Ireland have not yet made further announcements. Many UK universities however offer their own financial assistance, including scholarships, so check out the website of the university you are interested in for more information or go to the British Council Study UK scholarship pages for further information.
The UK will also continue to participate fully in the current Erasmus+ programme, which lasts until the end of 2020. Participants who study, train, volunteer or spend time abroad through Erasmus+ exchanges that were confirmed during the current programme (2014-2020) can participate fully and for the full duration of their exchange. This covers UK students going abroad and international students coming to the UK.
Studying in the UK from January 2021
The UK Government wants to ensure that international and EU students, including those from Austria, who are planning to study in the UK after 31 January 2020, can continue to do so: Special student visa routes will be opened up to EU, EEA and Swiss citizens and a new graduate immigration route, will be launched in summer 2021. The new graduate immigration route will provide an opportunity for international students who successfully complete their degree at undergraduate level or above at a UK Higher Education provider to stay and work, or look for work in the UK for up to two years after graduation (or three years if you are a PhD graduate). In addition, the global talent scheme will be opened up to EU, EEA and Swiss citizens, which will allow highly-skilled scientists and researchers to come to the UK without a job offer.
Covid-19 and support for international students
The health, wellbeing and safety of all students is a top priority and UK universities are doing all they can to support students during the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond. If you have any concerns, please check out the latest UK Government Covid-19 advice and the British Council Covid-19 support page for international students or contact your individual university directly.
The UK recognizes that embarking on a course of study at a UK higher education institution is a significant commitment. We want international students to benefit from an excellent education from our globally renowned universities and enjoy an unforgettable UK student experience. Supporting international students remains one of our top priorities. Despite the UK leaving the EU, UK universities remain open to the world and will continue to welcome students, staff and researchers from across the EU, including from Austria. The UK Government wants that contribution to continue: ‘We continue to be open to all international students, including those from the EU, and we value the important contribution they make to our universities.’ – Michelle Donelan, Universities Minister.
NB for more statistics on UK universities, see: UUKI International Facts and Figures 2019, the source of many of the figures in this post. For further information on studying in the UK, please refer to the UK Government Studying in the UK: guidance for EU students website or the British Council Study UK website.