This information should not be relied upon as legal or professional advice. Read the disclaimer.

Who determines eligibility?

Higher Education Providers (HEPs) allocate their students ‘home’ or ‘international/overseas’ status for the purpose of charging tuition fees. Home fees are capped by the Government and are generally lower than international fees. When making decisions on fee status, HEPs follow regulations produced by the Department for Education (DfE) but may also exercise some discretion.

To receive publicly funded student support, students must also be allocated home status by Student Finance England (SFE). SFE have no discretion in this area and must follow the regulations. While a student may be allocated home fee status by their HEP, therefore, they may still be unable to access tuition fee and maintenance loans from SFE.

Allocation of ‘home’ or ‘international/overseas’ student status can vary in different regions. See the relevant websites for information: Student Awards Agency for Scotland, Student Finance Wales, and Student Finance Northern Ireland.

What are the regulations?

Three sets of regulations set out the categories of student eligible for ‘home’ fee status and student support in England:

Who is eligible?

Generally, individuals must be resident and ‘settled’ in the UK on the first day of the first academic year of their course to be eligible for home student status. They must also have been ‘ordinarily resident’ in the UK for the three years before that date. The three-year residency rule applies to all students, including UK nationals who have been living abroad (see below for an exception for UK nationals living in Europe).

When determining eligibility for student support, a student’s age, previous study, course, and HEP are also considered.

Being ‘settled’

A settled person is someone ordinarily resident in the UK without any immigration restriction on the length of their stay. The regulations take this definition from immigration law (section 33(2A) of the Immigration Act 1971). Students with right of abode in the UK or indefinite leave to remain will meet the criteria.

Being ‘ordinarily resident’

A person is ordinarily resident if they normally and lawfully live in an area from choice. Temporary absences, including for work, are permitted.

In reaching a judgement about whether a student fulfils the ordinarily resident criteria, assessors rely on case law from UK courts and tribunals. It is possible for HEPs and SFE to reach different conclusions.

What impact has Brexit had?

Following the UK’s exit from the European Union, some new categories of eligibility for home fee status and student support were established for courses starting after 1 August 2021.

The DfE has published policy papers setting out these changes in more detail. Additional guidance (PDF 162 KB) has also been produced by SFE.

European nationals living in the UK

European Economic Area (EEA) and Swiss nationals, and their family members, who have been granted settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme will be eligible for home fee status and student support on broadly the same basis as before Brexit. Generally, this means those who were living in the UK by 31 December 2020 and have continued to live in the UK.

UK nationals living in Europe

For courses starting between 1 August 2021 and 1 January 2028, UK nationals and their family members living in the EEA or Switzerland will generally be eligible for home fee status and full student support, if they meet the following conditions:

  • they have lived in the EEA, Switzerland, the UK, or Gibraltar for at least the last three years;
  • they were living in the EEA or Switzerland on 31 December 2020;
  • they have lived continuously in the EEA, Switzerland, the UK, or Gibraltar between 31 December 2020 and the start of their course.

Are there any exceptions?

Students might be eligible for home student status if they meet the criteria for a limited group of exceptional categories:

  • Refugees and family members;
  • Persons granted humanitarian protection and family members;
  • Persons granted stateless leave and family members;
  • Persons with section 67 leave;
  • Persons granted Calais leave to remain;
  • Persons granted indefinite leave as a victim of domestic violence or abuse;
  • Bereaved partner.

Students might also be eligible under the ‘long residence’ category if they are not a UK national and either:

  • Under 18 and have lived in the UK for at least 7 years;
  • 18 or over and have lived in the UK for at least 20 years (or at least half of their life).

A requirement to be ordinarily resident will generally also apply in these cases, and students may need to have been living continuously for the three years preceding the first day of the first academic year.

The UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA)

The UK Council for International Student Affairs provides specialist information and advice to international students and education providers on fees and funding.

They have produced a guide for students (PDF 757 KB) starting courses on or after 1 August 2021 setting out the updated eligibility categories following Brexit. Detailed criteria for the exceptional categories listed above are available on their website.

UKCISA also have a student advice line for discussing individual cases, +4420 7788 9214, which is available Monday to Friday (except for public holidays) between 1pm and 4pm (UK time).

Further information

Student finance explained, House of Commons Library, September 2021. This series of Insights explains the student finance system in England.

Student support for undergraduates across the UK, House of Commons Library, September 2021. This Research Briefing sets out the amount of financial support undergraduates may receive in England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

Student finance: how you’re assessed and paid, SFE, March 2021. This guide explains what support students in England are entitled to and how this is calculated and paid.