UK votes to leave the European Union – what does this mean for us?

As you will undoubtedly be aware, the UK has voted to leave the European Union. Although this is not an outcome that we wished or campaigned for, we are, and will remain, an international and diverse community that welcomes colleagues and students from all around the world.

Over the coming weeks, months and years, the UK will be entering a period of transition while the Government negotiates the UK’s new position in Europe and in the world.

Understanding the implications of leaving the EU and the affect this is likely to have on the UK Higher Education sector, and the University, is not yet known and will take a considerable amount of time to finalise, with a number of commentators suggesting the negotiations will take more than 2 years to complete.

However, it is important to note that there will be no immediate changes to UK universities’ participation in EU programmes such as Horizon 2020 and Erasmus, nor to the immigration status of current and prospective students.
I would also like to reassure you that I am already in discussion with Universities UK, fellow Russell Group universities and our UK, European and international partners to ensure the future of UK Universities, and ultimately our university, is not adversely affected by this decision.

Although we have a considerable way to go before we can be certain about what this will mean for us, I wanted to try to ease any immediate concerns you may have by providing you with a brief update on my understanding of the following areas.

Current EU students

Until the UK has formally left the EU, previously agreed EU treaties will continue to apply, including the right of EU citizens to live, work and study in other member states.

Commentators agree that transitional arrangements for EU nationals already working and studying in the UK will form part of any negotiation but it is important to note that, until these negotiations have concluded, the immigration status of our students will remain the same as they are now – this includes our current EU funded PGR students.

EU student fees

The level of fees UK universities charge EU students will be one of the many items that will need to be addressed during the exit negotiations. However, the University intends to honour the current level of fees for all existing EU students for the duration of their studies here, even if their courses last longer than the expected period of negotiation.

EU students studying in the UK under the Erasmus programme

The immigration status of these students has not changed, and they continue to be eligible for their Erasmus grant for at least as long as we remain a member of the EU – and this could well be extended beyond this point.
UK students studying in the EU and elsewhere under the Erasmus programme

Again, the immigration status of these students has not changed and they will continue to be eligible for their Erasmus grant for at least as long as we remain a member of the EU – and, again, this could well be extended beyond this point.

Current EU funded research grants

It is my understanding that all current live EU grants will be honoured by the European Union. The University will therefore be working to ensure these grants are fully supported and delivered in the same way as they are now.
Future EU funded research grants

Until the exit of the UK from the EU is fully negotiated, we do not expect to be excluded from any future EU research funding opportunities. We will therefore be working to ensure we continue to access the Horizon 2020 and Future Framework Research and Innovation Programmes, which provide us with routes to work on collaborative EU and International projects.

To provide you with further reassurance, our Registrar and Secretary, Mike Shore-Nye, and our Provost, Professor Janice Kay, are in the process of setting up a steering group to consider the likely impact of any forthcoming negotiated changes. This group will consist of academics and professional services colleagues from across all colleges, services and functions of the University.

Regular updates about the UK’s newly negotiated position and what this will mean for you as a student will be shared with you as soon as plans become clear.

I realise the future seems uncertain but it is important to again emphasise that there will be no immediate changes to UK universities’ current policies. My colleagues and I will continue to actively participate in any discussions about the UK’s exit of the EU so we are able to influence future Higher Education policies and therefore ensure the UK’s exit from the EU is managed as successfully as possible in this area.
With best wishes,


Professor Sir Steve Smith
Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive
University of Exeter

Tel: 01392 723000
PA: Rachel Hucker (

Date: 24/06/16