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

The regulations around home student status vary across the UK. See the relevant article in the series for information on Wales, Scotland, or Northern Ireland.

Who determines eligibility?

Higher education providers in England allocate their students ‘home’ or ‘overseas/international’ status for the purpose of charging tuition fees. Undergraduate home fees are currently capped by the Government at £9,250. Overseas fees are set by providers and can be much higher depending on the course and provider.

When making decisions on fee status, higher education providers follow regulations produced by the Department for Education but may also exercise some discretion.

To receive publicly funded student support, including tuition fee and maintenance loans, students must also be allocated home status by Student Finance England. Student Finance England has no discretion in this area and must follow the regulations.

While a student may be allocated home fee status by their higher education provider, they may still be unable to access support from Student Finance England.

What are the regulations?

The following regulations and subsequent amendments set out the categories of student eligible for home fee status and student support in England:

The regulations are complex. If a prospective student is unsure about their eligibility, they should discuss it with their university and Student Finance 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. With some exceptions, 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).

To determine eligibility for student support, a student’s age, previous study, course, and higher education provider 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 higher education providers and Student Finance England 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 Department for Education has published policy papers setting out these changes in more detail. Additional guidance (PDF) has also been produced by Student Finance England.

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.

For example, those who have been granted settled status (and Irish citizens, who are treated automatically as settled) will generally be eligible for home fee status and tuition fee and maintenance loans if they have lived in the UK for at least the three years before the start of their course.

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 tuition fee and maintenance loans if they meet the following conditions:

  • they have lived in the EEA, Switzerland, or the UK 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, or the UK between 31 December 2020 and the start of their course.

Are there any exceptions?

Students might be eligible for home fee status and student support if they meet the criteria for a limited group of exceptional categories. A requirement to be ordinarily resident will generally also apply, and in some cases students may need to have been living in the UK continuously for the three years preceding their course. The exceptional categories are:

  • 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 to remain as a victim of domestic violence or abuse;
  • Persons granted indefinite leave to remain as a bereaved partner;
  • Persons granted leave under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy or the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme, and British nationals evacuated or assisted in leaving Afghanistan;
  • Persons granted leave under the Ukraine schemes.

Students might 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).

UK nationals resident in specified British Overseas Territories may also be eligible for home fee status and tuition fee loans.

The UK Council for International Student Affairs

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

It has produced a guide for students 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 its website.

UKCISA also has a student advice line for discussing individual cases (T:+4420 7788 9214), available Monday to Friday (except for public holidays) between 1pm and 4pm.

Further information

The Commons Library Insight series Student finance explained provides an overview of the student finance system in England.

The Commons Library briefing Student support for undergraduates across the UK sets out the amount of financial support undergraduates may receive in England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

The Student Finance England guide Student finance: how you’re assessed and paid explains what support students in England are entitled to and how this is calculated and paid.