The fee status that you are assigned at a UK university will determine what tuition fees you pay for your degree. Being classified as a ‘Home’ or ‘Overseas’ student can be the difference in paying either £9,250 or £58,038 per year in tuition fees, depending on what course you intend to study. It can also impact how you finance your studies, as only Home students can apply for a student loan. With such a disparity in what students pay for the same degree, many people will want to know what makes you eligible for Home fees.
Firstly, ‘Home’ students must meet the necessary immigration criteria by either being a British citizen or being ‘settled’ in the UK which means having no restriction on the length of time on your stay in the UK. This includes people from the Common Travel Area, i.e. Irish and Islands citizens, and in some cases, British Overseas Territory citizens. Unfortunately, due to Brexit, this no longer includes other EU citizens who have not successfully applied to the European Settlement Scheme.
Secondly, you need to demonstrate that you have been ‘ordinarily resident’ in the UK for at least three years prior to starting university. This means having a “regular and habitual mode of life in a particular place”. Essentially, during any periods of living in another country, you are expected to have maintained connections back in your home country. This can be very subjective but common ways to prove this are by having a UK home and visiting the UK regularly.
Thirdly, if it’s not clear whether someone has ordinary residence in the UK, then universities will look to see that any absence from the UK is of a temporary nature and that it is your (or your family’s) intention to return to the UK at some point. For this, universities will look at the parents’ current and previous employment, property ownership, rental agreements etc. There is no concrete rule about how long ‘temporary’ is – universities will take a different stance on this; some will have a strict cut off period and others will be flexible based on the student’s circumstances.
Finally, universities assessing your fee status will expect you to be able to evidence all of the above as much as possible. So it is key to prepare documentation that proves your connections to the UK and your living and working circumstances wherever you live outside the UK.
Although there are fixed rules and regulations on fee status, it’s not always clear cut who is eligible, even to the universities themselves. Universities often have to interpret a student’s background and make a judgement call on if they are Home or Overseas. And many have their own policy on fee status which leads to inconsistencies among the different universities in how they classify the same student. The subjective nature of fee status can mean that, unarmed with a good understanding of the criteria, many students get unnecessarily classified as Overseas fee-payers. Getting expert advice on this can help to reduce the uncertainty around your eligibility and strengthen your case for Home fees.