Doubts and proofs – Hungarian student life in the UK after Brexit

It is well known fact that Great Britain exited the European Union on 1 January 2021. „Nothing will change for Hungarians living in the UK after Brexit”, said Iain Lindsay, British ambassador to Hungary before Brexit.[1] He added that the UK has the biggest Hungarian-born population outside the Carpathian Basin and is the second or third largest destination for Hungarian students.

However, it must be noted that EU citizens have lost a number of benefits. Workers now have to comply with stricter residency rules, and they face a heavier administrative burden, which affects around 160,000 Hungarian citizens.[2] Young people are also affected by the changes. Prior to Brexit, the EU banned discrimination on the basis of citizenship and it gave EU students “domestic” tuition status. After Great Britain left the EU, the ban was lifted and EU students were given a new “overseas” status. As a consequence, the conditions have also changed: while the UK was a member of the EU, the maximum university tuition fee was £9250 (EUR 10,200), there was also a reduced student loan and no need for separate health insurance or a visa. Since Brexit, however, they have either been discontinued or their costs are significantly higher. After Brexit the tuition fees can range from £25,000 to £40,000 (EUR 38,000-44,000). Another £348 (EUR 386) for a visa is required, and one also has to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge, which is an extra £470 pounds (EUR 520) compared to pre-Brexit time. Previously, the tuition fees could be covered in total by a student loan, which is now not available and which has been used by 85-90% of the Hungarian students studying in UK.[3]

In the light of the above mentioned it is not surprising, that the number of Hungarian students studying in the UK has fallen dramatically since Brexit. In 2021, 95%!!! fewer Hungarian students start university in the UK than in the previous year. “While in the year 2020–2021, around 705 students were admitted out of around 1,100 applicants, in the 2021–2022 academic year only 450 students applied out of which 190 have been admitted but eventually only 60 began their studies”, told Soma Pirityi, co-founder of the Hungarian Youth Association (HYA).[4] According to him before Brexit 2,500–3,000 Hungarian students studied in the UK each academic year, brought together by organizations such as the Milestone Institute, the HYA or the New Generation Centre with the aim to bring home to Hungary those students who have graduated from top-ranked British universities. HYA estimates that after Brexit this process will be completed, after 2021, a maximum of 1-2 Hungarian students per university will be appear.

The facts described above were confirmed by our interviewee, who graduated from a university in London: “I wanted to do a one-year master’s course, because here a master’s is only one year. So I was of the opinion that one year is nothing, especially after three years, which I have already done….. And so far the tuition fees have been the same as for the English. And for that you had a student loan with very, very favourable conditions. But this has now been abolished….. And that’s why I didn’t enroll for a master’s degree. I think that’s why a lot fewer people come to study here. I have friends who wanted to study here, but they don’t come here anymore. Due to the unfavorable conditions. They either stay in Hungary or go to other countries to study.” (Young Hungarian girl)

Consequently, it can be stated that Brexit has affected not only trade or labour workers, but also university students, which also triggered new social processes in both countries.





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