Greg Clark, universities minister since only June this year, has already caused controversy with plans that threaten to cut the amount of financial support EU students can receive while studying in the UK. The plans, being discussed by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), would see the rules around maintenance loans changed.
Currently, an EU student has to live in the UK for three years to qualify for financial help whilst living and studying. However in recent years, there has been an increase in the amount of support given to EU students, more than doubling from £75 million in the academic year 2009-10 to £162 million in 2012-13.
The government claims that the rate of loan pay-back is lower within the EU graduate pool, and that students who choose to return to the European continent post-graduation are half as likely to pay back their loans, either in part or fully. With the cap on student numbers set to be lifted in 2015, the government has argued that this will lead to large loan costs as more EU students arrive.
Off the back of these statistics, Clark is considering raising the period for which an EU student must live in the UK before claiming a maintenance loan, from three years to five years. This would take place from the 2016 academic year at the very earliest.
Speaking of the proposal, Clark said: “[it is not my aim] to dilute this diverse culture but to address the economic reality of the higher education budget by bringing the rules regarding living cost support for EU students in line with the rules applied to visiting students in other EU countries.”
The consultation does not propose changing the rules which say EU students must have the same access to tuition fee loans as UK students.
The proposed changes would be effective from 2016-17 at the earliest and would not apply to those with settled status, such as refugees.