Monday, June 27, 2016

Brexit #1: What does it mean for UK and EU Art Students and Schools?

There is no certainty right now about Brexit means for art and artists. This is a first in a series of articles commenting (hopefully in an intelligent and factual way!) on what Brexit might mean for different aspects of Art and Artists.

This first article focuses on art students and those wishing to take fine art degrees, short courses, workshops, classes etc in terms of:
  • EU students wanting to study in the UK
  • UK students wanting to study in the EU.
Plus it also comments on some of the implications for art schools and other educational establishments.

I'm trying here to indicate a framework for how things might work going forward.  I'd be very happy to add into this post any information or comments from people with relevant experience or expertise. 

Darwin Building, Royal College of Art in London, spring 2013
Royal College of Art - for postgraduate study

What happens now?

In the short term, nothing changes immediately - apart from on the financial markets. 

When Article 50 is invoked and the negotiations begin it should become clearer what happens next. Two years are allowed to conclude them.  I'll update this post and/or write a new one as and when any changes are announced

However the major question is if and when Article 50 is invoked - and how the various parties behave towards one another as negotiations proceed.

Hopefully at some point everybody will stop running round like headless chickens and calm down and get on with whatever needs to be done for the best interests of all concerned.

You can be certain during negotiations there will lobbying for special exemptions and deals for specific circumstances. However what those will be and what happens will depend as much on the attitude and tone struck by EU Members and Politicians.

In terms of art students it's much easier to say what's likely to happen in future with respect to EU students coming to the UK than what the EU might decide with respect to UK students wanting to study at an approved educational institution in the EU. It's probably going to be similar - but there are no certainties.

What it means for Art Students

The University of Arts, London issued advice to their students the day before the referendum - What does a Brexit mean for UAL students?  (Its students actually come from over 140 countries from around the globe).

Study Visas to come to the UK

Glasgow School of Art 52
Glasgow School of Art
- the Mackintosh Building
At present you don't need a visa to come to the UK to study if you normally reside within the EU.
If you are a student from a country outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland, and not already living in the UK, you need a visa to study in the UK.
University of the Arts, London
However if and when the UK leaves the EU this will very likely change for all students who are EU Nationals.
There will an end of unrestricted free movement. | Douglas Carswell - interviewed on the BBC 27 June 2016
However education might be an area where a special deal is done given the high education sector's dependence on fees from overseas students. This is an aspect to keep an eye on.

I make no predictions but I'd expect some heavy lobbying from the educational institutions on this one.
Every year, universities generate over £73 billion for the UK economy – £3.7bn of which is generated by students from EU countries | EU referendum: An open letter to UK voters from leaders of 103 British universities
After the Exit has been agreed, it's reasonable to expect that all EU nationals wanting to come to the UK to study art will be subject to the same terms and conditions as nationals from any other country.

If visas are required in future, the type of visa will depend on what sort of study is involved. Links below are to Visa Information from the Government.

There are currently two types of Student Visas for people who want to come to the UK for study purposes
  • Tier 4 (General) visa
  • Short-term Study visa
Somebody coming as an academic visitor needs a You need a Standard Visitor visa.

Tier 4 Visa

At present you can apply for a Tier 4 (General) Visa if you are a non-EU national.  There are various conditions.  They key conditions are that:
  • there is a limit on the amount of time you can spend in the UK on this type of visa.
  • it only relates to educational organisations which hold a Tier 4 licence - which means if they lose their licence you lose your visa unless you can find another sponsor
This is for students aged 16 years or over who are coming to UAL to study:
  • A full-time degree or degree-level course (e.g. BA, MA, PhD);
  • A further education course (e.g. Foundation Diploma);
  • A pre-sessional course;
  • An English language course (at level B2 in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages).

Short-term Study Visa

Short term Study Visas are for people wanting to do a short course of study in the UK
What you can and can’t do
You can:
  • do a short course of study in the UK, such as an English language course or a training course
  • do a short period of research as part of a degree course if you are studying abroad
You can’t:
  • study at a state school
  • work (including on a work placement or work experience) or carry out any business
  • extend this visa
  • bring family members (‘dependants’) with you - they must apply separately
  • get public funds

Three year courses and a two year exit period

I expect higher education establishments will be in a quandary about offering places for the next academic year for three year courses as these will extend beyond the two years allocated for completely exit negotiations.

My guess - and I emphasise this is a guess - is that
  • they will lobby hard for some transitional arrangements for students who 
    • started their academic studies this year - but will not complete in the two years after Article 50 is invoked.
    • start to study after the vote and before the Exit.
  • they will provide lots of information and advice to students as to the requirements for visas if the UK exits the EU within the 2 year period or by the end of it.  
Bear in mind that it very much appears that in relation to being a student in the UK the worst it can be (on the basis of current arrangements) is exactly the same as it is for other non-EU nationals at present.

Exchange arrangements

There may also be issues in relation to any exchange arrangements with academic institutions in the EU - and vice versa.

I think this is very much a 'wait and see'. The chances are is it might require more paperwork.

After your study course finishes

The major difference will come after EU or UK students have finished your studies. 

If freedom of movement between EU and the UK becomes restricted then there will be:

  • no right to remain after your studies, 
  • no right to work and 
  • no right to live in the UK. 
All of these activities will require a visa.

Although nobody can be certain, it's very likely that a work visa will only be issued according to the points-based system which currently relates to non-EU nationals. Visas are only issued to specific classes of people.

Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa

International Art Competitions
may become more important
One class is "Exceptional Talent". This is the full guidance on UK Visas and Immigration's policy on visa applications under Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) - Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) policy guidance PDF, 559KB, 49 pages.

Interestingly I was asked last year to provide an endorsement for an artist who wanted to apply under this class (after I had highlighted the individual on this blog). I referred him on to an organisation I thought might well provide an endorsement with more weight.

It does however highlight how important international art competitions and art prizes might become in indicating exceptional talent.

What it means for Art Schools 

If they haven't done so already, it's very likely that all art schools and other establishments (of whatever size) offering study courses will need to become accredited as an institution which is "recognised" as a "proper" educational organisation.

(There's been all sorts of shocking examples of establishments masquerading as study centres in the past - hence the rigour re becoming accredited and the removal of Tier 4 accreditation on occasion).

Specifically that means that
  • art schools in this country need to meet visa requirements for students (if they don't already)
  • art schools in the EU will need to do likewise re whatever visa arrangements they have in place for non-EU students. (Anybody know what those are?)

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