Almost one million students in UK’s colleges and universities are demanding a referendum on any final Brexit deal the government signs into.
Worried over the adverse impact they foresee when the country leaves the UK, student unions at 60 of the country’s leading universities and colleges are calling for a “people’s vote” before a final Brexit deal is implemented. They represent 980,000 students concerned over their future prospects.
Amatey Doku, deputy president of the National Union of Students, said: “When over 120 elected student officers, representing nearly a million young people, call for something with one clear voice, they need to be listened to. Students and young people overwhelmingly voted Remain and cannot see how the government can deliver a Brexit deal that works for them. As an elected representative body of 600 student unions, NUS is calling for a people’s vote on the Brexit deal.”
The Guardian reported that student organisations have written to their Members of Parliament (MPs) over the weekend to support a “people’s vote”. Protests – that would be larger than the 2010’s over tuition fee hikes – are being planned as well.
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The UK’s decision to leave the European Union is understandably impacting local students, most notably through the changes that will fall on the Erasmus program (short for the European Community Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students). Much uncertainty now hangs over the initiative which allows students to study or gain work experience in a different European country while completing a degree.
But students said their concern goes beyond Erasmus and include their future career and life prospect in a Britain that is no longer in the EU.
Melantha Chittenden, the national chair of Labour Students said: “Students want the Labour party’s policy to reflect their views and that means having a proper debate and vote on Brexit at the Labour party conference this year.”
“It’s wrong to think students only care about student-specific issues like Erasmus – they care passionately about staying in the customs union and retaining freedom of movement, they understand the rights and protections that the EU affords us all and will do anything to defend that. That’s why young people voted Remain and it’s why we should get a say on the terms of the final deal.”
International students stand to be affected as well, particularly prospective and current students from the European Union who now face significant uncertainty over their legal and academic status in the UK. Should a “hard Brexit” take place, European students can expect to be treated like non-European international students. This means they will be charged significantly higher tuition fees and have limited access to enter the UK.
As for international students from outside the EU or European Economic Area (EEA), no direct effects are expected to hit them.