EDITOR’S OPINION: We are all students of the world

EU fees allow more skills to come to this country, and gives us life-changing opportunity

Cartoon: Allistair Knifton

Chancellor Merkel is now one of the only feepaying EU students left, circa 2020.

I can still remember when I applied to university. A naive, greasy teenager trying to decide which part of the country I was going to call my home for three years. We have all been there, such a momentous part of your life thatsmall print blends into the sensation of it all.
According to everyone I knew well back home in Switzerland, I was the most British person they had ever met. A person who wears his Hugh Grant impression on his sleeve next to his Barbour jacket, love of tea and a fragile ironic affection toward king and country. Being British was my thing, and I thought, upon my return to England from 10 years in Switzerland, I would be welcomed to university as a brother-in-arms. Naturally I chose the UK because by the time I left high school my stereotypes were in desperate need of a recharge. Unfortunately my optimism was shaken when I received news that as far the UK government was concerned, I was Johnny Foreigner, an EU student. This was okay at the time as it was the end of 2015 and the UK had not yet gone so far adrift of the status quo that it could see the Cayman Islands. Being an EU student means my fees are exactly the same as the UK, which will mean that I will escape the worst of what UCAS has to offer, but with Brexit on the horizon, many European students are starting to turn away from academic institutions in this country and vice versa. Admission rates were down seven per cent from EU nations, a trickle that could soon turn into a flood.

European projects such as Erasmus provide a huge opportunity for the current generation of students to experience other cultures and travel with relatively little expense for the pleasure, which has benefits as it expands one’s perspective and in my eyes makes you a global citizen. One of the best ways to learn about a foreign nation is to live and study there. What’s more is the distance gives great experience of changing places that could benefit in the future. It is a rare opportunity to be out of your depth and allows for a large amount of self-reflection on where you have come from.

I have spent most of my school life in Zurich and it taught me more about the UK than I could have learnt in England. Plus, in the words of a turtle-necked careers consultant: “it looks great on the CV”. Now the opportunity is lost with the prospect of fees in excess of £20 000, a figure that would even make an American blush. The issue requires great concern as both the government and universities stand to lose a great pool of skills and income. Not only does it deny European students access to some of Europe’s top universities, it may in fact cost more money to the government than a capping of EU fees, as demand would drop severely.

It is strange being a European student, despite being English, for I feel neither Swiss nor English in either place. That limbo is frightening at first, what with home being the country that you aren’t in. I love both places and that duality is beneficial to make it in the great expanse we call the world. So, when I begin to return from Switzerland back to York, I know that in the end, in the words of Frank Sinatra, “If I can make it there I can make it, anywhere”.

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