Exemption from provisions on application and tuition fees at higher education institutions for certain British citizens after Brexit

As citizens of a state within the European Union, British citizens are exempt from application and tuition fees for studies at higher education institutions in Sweden. If the United Kingdom leaves the EU on 30 March without a withdrawal agreement, British citizens will become subject to the rules applying to third-country nationals. On 21 March 2019, the Government decided that a temporary exemption from the provisions on application and tuition fees at higher education institutions will apply for certain British citizens so as to mitigate the consequences of withdrawal.

Should the UK leave the EU, British citizens will no longer be citizens of a state within the EU, but will instead be ‘third-country nationals’. As a rule, third-country nationals are required to pay application and tuition fees for first- and second-cycle studies at higher education institutions in Sweden.

The legislative amendments mean that a temporary exemption will be introduced from the provisions on application and tuition fees at higher education institutions for certain British citizens and, under certain circumstances, their family members. The specific conditions for exemption are given in the Ordinance (2019:159) amending the Ordinance on application fees and tuition fees at higher education institutions (2010:543) (only available in Swedish). The exemption is being introduced to mitigate the consequences should the UK leave the EU without a withdrawal agreement.

It is proposed that the amendments enter into force on 30 March 2019. Should the withdrawal occur at a later date, the exemption will not be applied until after the withdrawal. Should the UK and the EU enter into a withdrawal agreement after the Ordinance has entered into force, that agreement will take precedence over the Ordinance since EU law is superior to national law.

The new exemption means that British nationals will not be charged tuition fees for a course or degree programme at higher education institutions to which – the day before the UK’s withdrawal from the EU – they had been admitted or – no later than that day – to which they had applied. These students will have until the end of 2022 to complete, at no cost, the course or programme they had begun.

Nor will British citizens be charged tuition fees if, on the day before withdrawal, they had a right of residence in Sweden for reasons other than studies. The Ordinance (2019:159) amending the Ordinance on application fees and tuition fees at higher education institutions (2010:543) contains specific conditions for being granted an exemption as a family member. The exemption will be in effect until the end of March 2020.

As a leading knowledge nation, Sweden benefits from foreign students studying at higher education institutions. It is important for Sweden to be able to keep qualified students who contribute added value to Swedish higher education institutions, not least in light of the efforts under way in Sweden to internationalise higher education.