Students from the European Union who want to study with an English FE provider in 2017/18 will still be eligible for advanced learner loans, regardless of when Brexit takes place.
The government announced this morning that EU learners applying for a place at an English “FE institutions or universities in 2017/18 will continue to be eligible for student loans and grants – and will be for the duration of their course”.
FE Week checked with the Department for Education if this will apply to advanced learner loans, which were launched for 24-plus FE learners in 2013 and extended for 19 to 23-year-olds from May, as well as borrowing for higher education courses run at colleges.
A spokesperson confirmed that it “does cover advanced learner loans”.
A DfE spokesperson said: “The decision will mean that students applying to study from 2017/18 will not only be eligible for the same funding and support as they are now, but that their eligibility will continue throughout their course, even if the UK exits the European Union during that period.”
She added the move would help give “colleges certainty over future funding, while assuring prospective students applying to study at one of the UK’s world leading universities that they will not have the terms of their funding changed if the UK leaves the EU during their studies.
“The same assurance will be available for EU students studying in FE.”
The announcement comes after prime minister Teresa May said earlier this month that she would trigger Article 50, the clause needed to start the process, by the end of March 2017.
That means the UK is unlikely to fully leave the EU by mid-2019, but the government acted now to provide clarity over FE and higher education funding for next academic year.
Julian Gravatt, assistant chief executive at the Association of Colleges, said: “The Government’s confirmation that they will continue funding for EU students studying in further education institutions in 2017/18 to continue their course is reassuring to prospective students and helpful to colleges, especially as they have already started recruiting for September 2017.
“Many EU nationals enrolling in college already live here.The education and training students get from college helps UK companies and public services fill skills shortages which provides wider benefits. The EU exit negotiations create lots of uncertainty about the future so it is helpful to have some short-term certainty.”
Mark Dawe, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, told FE Week: “This announcement is good news for the sector if it applies to advanced learner loans in particular, as any moves to provide stability over funding at the present time are to be welcomed.
He added: “The government has consulted on loans for FE and we’ve said that it should really start looking at loans for higher and degree level apprenticeships.
“The timing is right with the levy on the horizon and loans for apprentices will support ministers’ social justice agenda.”
Around 10 per cent of total advanced learner loan funding paid out last academic year by the Student Loans Company went to non-UK citizens from across the EU (£10.1m of £100.1m).
Uncertainty remains over what will happen to European Social Fund contracts as a result of Brexit negotiations— with the current round running from 2014 to 2020 worth about €3bn (£2.3bn) across England.
The ESF is cash that the UK receives, as a member state of the EU, to increase job opportunities and help people to improve their skill levels, particularly those who find it difficult to get work.
It is partly administered through the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) and its allocations in 2014/15 showed that 107 different providers received a combined total of £305,267,633 in ESF cash.