As the UK continues in Brexit limbo, EU students may be wondering what the deal will be for them in the near future and what their options will look like, both within and without the UK.

Always a keen remainer with regard to the EU, Scotland has taken the initiative and declared that EU students will continue to be welcome at their universities on a home fee basis for courses starting in 2020-2021, whatever the Brexit outcome. This is interesting, not least because Scotland has some of Europe’s highest ranking universities, including Edinburgh University, which is listed 7th in the continent by The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2019.

Out of the other 450, that feature among the 1,250 globally, Glasgow ranks 34th in Europe, Aberdeen 74th and St Andrew’s 79th.

But England, which has three of the world’s top 10 rankings, with Oxford, Cambridge and Imperial College London in first, second and ninth position respectively, has still not clarified its position on EU student status beyond the 2019-2020 academic year.

In fact, according to the news site buzzfeed.com, the current UK government is drawing up plans to put EU students on a similar footing as international students in England by the 2021-2022 academic year, though this is proving controversial among higher education leaders, who believe the move will dramatically decrease student numbers from the continent to the detriment of the institutions. 

But while it is impossible to predict what will happen in the UK, there are an increasing number of European universities offering an ever wider range of courses taught in English, some of the most popular being in Germany and the Netherlands, which have six and seven universities respectively in Europe’s top 30. According to recent data, most international students are taking engineering courses in Germany, which was ranked by the Study EU survey as the most attractive destination in Europe for students from abroad.

This evaluation was based on the following factors: the cost of living, education and life and career as gauged by the UN’s World Happiness report. The Netherland’s ranked third most attractive to international students, after the United Kingdom.

Both Germany and the Netherlands offer low cost education which means that students don’t feel the same pressure to finish their studies in the shortest period possible as they might do in the UK. Another difference is that there is less campus life, with students generally spread throughout the cities and often combining their studies with internships or jobs.

This lifestyle aligns more with the emerging trend of apprenticeship degrees in the UK, which offer students a chance to combine paid work experience with studies that are financed for them by either private employers or institutions.

Although traditionally seen as less prestigious, these degrees are increasingly valued by employers as they offer a more practical and rounded education and a bridge between academia and a real-world context.

Currently, anyone who has lived within the EU for the past three years is eligible to apply for an apprenticeship degree, but whether this will continue to be the case beyond Brexit is anyone’s guess.

Of course, it is outside of Europe where the highest percentage of top universities lie, as listed by The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2019. Nineteen out of 30 of the world’s top-tier higher education establishments are to be found in the US, including Stanford, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, California Institute of Technology, Harvard, Princeton and Yale. The economic prospect of studying in America is, of course, an altogether different ball game, with overall costs for the most eminent university averaging $60,000 a year, though public US universities would average no more than an English university, should EU students be paying international fees in the UK in the future.