If you are planning to start a course in Wales on or after 1 August 2021 and would have expected to pay ‘home’ fees before Brexit, you are probably wondering whether you will pay ‘home’ or ‘international’ fees.
The regulations that determine who pays ‘home’ fees are issued by the Welsh Government. They have not issued those regulations yet, but they have issued a ‘Student Finance Wales Information Notice’ which helps explain roughly what the situation will be for some groups. The reference number for the notice is SFWIN 01/2021.
The notice explains that big changes are going to be made to the regulations. It says that:
“As a result of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, significant changes to the eligibility of students for support are necessary. A number of existing eligibility categories will apply only to those on courses which began before 1 August 2021. New eligibility categories will be included for those on courses on or after 1 August 2021. Some categories are unchanged (those unaffected by withdrawal from the EU).”
The notice then goes on to explain roughly what the situation will be for some groups.
It is important you remember that the notice does not set out all the detailed requirements that will appear in the regulations (for example, the notice does not explain what three-year period of residence is tested, or that in some cases your ‘main purpose’ for living in a particular area might be relevant). Also, the notice looks at some common situations, but not the less common situations.
For that reason, you will need to wait until the regulations (and the guidance that accompanies them) are issued, to know for certain whether or not you qualify. The Welsh Government says in its notice that “the regulations are currently being drafted”, so it should not be too long to wait.
However, the notice does contain some useful information that is worth knowing now:
1. The regulations should ensure that people who are protected in the Withdrawal Agreements do not end up worse off after Brexit.
This is how they explain that in paragraph 7 of the notice:
“The Withdrawal Agreement agreed by the UK Government with the European Union provides that the principle of equal treatment will continue to apply for those covered by the citizens’ rights provisions. This means that EU nationals and their family members lawfully resident in the UK on or before the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020 will be eligible for support on a similar basis as now. Similar agreements have been signed with the EEA-EFTA states [Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein] and Switzerland and the same principle will apply.”
2. If you do not have settled status, then having pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme will help in showing that you are protected in the Withdrawal Agreements.
This is how they explain that in paragraphs 12 and 13 of the notice:
“EU, other EEA and Swiss nationals and their family members who are covered by the withdrawal agreements will continue to have access to home fee status and student financial support on broadly the same basis as now… Such persons will have applied for pre-settled or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS)”.
The notice then goes on to mention some of the groups who might have pre-settled status, but does not set out all the detailed requirements that will appear in the regulations about each of these groups. For that reason, you will need to wait until the regulations (and the guidance that accompanies them) are issued, to know for certain whether or not you qualify.
3. Residence in the Republic of Ireland will help Irish citizens qualify for ‘home’ fees.
This is how they explain that in paragraphs 25 and 26 of the notice:
“25. Irish citizens resident in the UK, Islands ['Islands' means Channel Islands or Isle of Man] or the Republic of Ireland for three years before the start of their course and undertaking a course in Wales will be eligible for home fee status and tuition fee loans on the same basis as UK nationals.”
“26. Additionally, Irish citizens will be eligible for maintenance support from the Welsh Government if resident in Wales and if they have lived in the UK and Islands for three years before the start of the course.”
4. There will be a new provision for British Citizens and their family members.
The provision is mentioned in paragraph 21 of the notice, but the requirements are not explained clearly. You will need to wait until the regulations are issued, to be confident about them.
5. The regulation changes will not affect you if you start your course before 1 August 2021.
This is how they explain that in paragraph 9 of the notice:
“Students who have started or who start courses before 1 August 2021 will continue to be eligible for support and home fee status for the duration of their course, if they continue to meet the eligibility criteria.”