UK students studying on a year abroad have been left stranded due to combined Covid-19 and Brexit disruption.
The new Covid-19 variant identified in the UK caused many European countries to shut their borders, meaning that some students have been refused re-entry after returning home for Christmas.
UK study abroad coordinators have said that many European universities still require in-person registration for courses which have switched to online learning.
Students have also found themselves paying large sums to secure the appropriate paperwork with short notice, while others were finding it difficult to determine the documents needed to return.
Two students at one UK institution allegedly paid £300 each to obtain the documents needed to return to Spain.
The European Commission has stated that Erasmus Plus funding will only be paid to students for the period for which they are living abroad, and not if they are studying or working remotely. This leaves some students with the possibility of having to partially repay their grant.
Some students attempting to travel to Spain have been told that they were no longer exempt from the national ban on all but essential travel as they were no longer European Union (EU) citizens.
The poor students, who are still in receipt of Erasmus funding, are guinea pigs in the government’s great ‘sovereignty experiment’
–Professor Julia Waters
Julia Waters, a year abroad coordinator in the department of languages and cultures at the University of Reading, said: “This is affecting all UK students on study abroad placements this academic year.
“The poor students, who are still in receipt of Erasmus funding, are guinea pigs in the government’s great ‘sovereignty experiment’.”
Professor Waters added that students working or studying in France had received “mixed messages” whether they required to acquire a visa and residency card.
Of the 69 students on years abroad for whom Professor Waters is responsible, 20 have experienced issues but “this may be the tip of the iceberg”.
The Senior Lecturer in German studies at the University of Birmingham also told Times Higher Education that UK students must now prove that they have £5,000 for an EU visa, consequently “hitting widening participation students more”.