University Brexit Meeting: Are EU ready for Brexit?

The University of Essex’s Brexit meeting discussed what changes the university may experience as a result of Brexit and what it is doing to prepare for it. Here is Chloe Bransom’s summary of the event.

With Brexit now being our reality, the University of Essex set up a small discussion meeting on the 29th January for both teachers and students on what they know about Brexit. This included its immediate effects so far, what the university is planning to do about any changes that could happen and where EU students can talk to about their concerns. The meeting was held at the Ivor Crew Lecture Hall (auditorium A) and led by Bryn Morris, Registrar and Secretary of the University. It was found useful, and helped put student’s minds at ease about their uncertain future at the university. 

What Happens Now? 

On the 31st January 2020, the UK left the EU at 11pm with a negotiating mandate agreed by 1st March 2020. On the 30th June 2020, the deadline for the extending transition period ends – meaning on the 26th November 2020 the trade deal needs to be negotiated, checked, translated and presented to the European Parliament (unless Boris Johnson chooses not to extend the transition period). By 31st December 2020, a trade deal should be in place or the UK will fall back onto a no deal Brexit.

This is just the basic outline of the events that will occur with the UK leaving the EU this year. This means that by 2021, other things such as trade and university fees should be finalised and set in stone – as long as the transition period isn’t extended to 31st December 2022. 

What Are the University’s Plans? 

The university have put certain plans in place to ensure that during Brexit deal negotiations there are minimal disruptions as possible to students and staff of the university. There is a Brexit Impact Group, which aims to look at the impact that Brexit is going to have on students and staff as well as the specific dates and what they mean leading up to the UK’s departure from the EU.

The university is also ready for no deal; they have a checklist in place, as well as mitigation for essential supplies, such as toilet paper, to ensure that the university and its accommodations are fully stocked in case of a shortage after Brexit occurs. During the meeting, it was made clear that although there isn’t much knowledge on what is going to happen when Brexit kicks off. But the university is going to do its best to help its students and staff during the transition period and the different outcomes that may happen. 

During the meeting, we also heard from five members of staff who had some information on what their departments were doing about the possible outcomes and how they were going to try and work around any issues that may arise. Among those speaking were Andrew Keeble, Director of Finance, Susie Morgan, Director of People and Culture, Lindsey Russell, Director of Marketing and Student Recruitment, Rob Singh, Acting Director REO and Richard Stock, Academic Registrar. They all reassured students that they have been looking into, and are still looking into, ways of negotiating with other universities to ensure that after the UK leaves the EU, students from this university will have as much opportunities and chances they can get.

However, they advised us that the UK Parliament has voted against the Erasmus deal, and therefore the funding for year abroad students is going to change drastically – making it harder for students who want to do a year abroad in an EU country. With limited answers and resources at this current time, it was difficult for them to tell us exactly how they could go about this, but reminded us all to keep checking the web pages they have set up for Brexit and how it will affect our university.

How Will EU Students be affected? 

Along with losing the Erasmus status, any students from the EU will have a cut in their health benefits and health insurance. Any student with a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will still be able to seek medical attention whilst in the UK, but it will no longer cover them for any pre-existing conditions. However, all students of the university are covered by the university’s health insurance policy, which is not going to change. It is also not entirely 100% on what will happen with EHIC’s either, as it may stop being valid once the UK is fully departed from the EU. At this current time, the university does not have any more information or advice on this issue but are still looking into the outcomes and possible changes and what can be done.  

In terms of finance, students from the EU who are already attending the university will not see any change in their loans and fees. This is not a guaranteed statement but it is what the financial side of things are looking like at this moment. However, students from the EU who join from 2021 will see a huge increase in their tuition fees and may find it more difficult to get a loan, or a big enough loan to live on.

Speaking to a first year student from Italy about how she felt about the university’s plans for Brexit, she told me; “I like that the university is researching what they can do about Brexit and that they are putting things in place for different scenarios to help out the students and staff of the university. It’s helpful and good to know that they care about their students”.  

With the university putting these plans in place and making sure that all EU students know who to talk to and contact about any concerns or questions they may have, it is most definitely taking the pressure off their thoughts about what is going to happen. However, the worry of finance still continues to be prominent in most students. Unfortunately, there isn’t much information on what is definitely going to happen with the finance for EU students, but they have been advised to keep checking the Brexit webpage on the university’s website. 

To find out more about Brexit, here is our article on ‘Breaking down the B-word‘.

Feature image by Chloe Bransom.

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