What we know about Brexit and ELT: English UK marketing conference panel discussion
14 February 2019

With only weeks to go until Brexit, our industry needs as much clarity as possible about what will happen if there is a no-deal scenario.

To help, we invited four experts to join a Brexit panel at our Marketing Conference on Friday 8 February, and got them to answer our questions and yours.

They covered ID cards, the possible expanded Youth Mobility scheme and plans for a forum focusing on the ELT sector. The audience was advised to be extra dilligent, knowing who is coming, when are you expecting them, and reminded of the opportunity to give agents and customers clear information and direction.

Useful resources:

Find their discussion below or listen again...


Brexit and UK ELT: an expert panel

The panellists:

  • Emma Meredith (EM) director of international at the Association of Colleges
  • Pat Saini (PS), head of immigration and partner at Pennington Manches
  • Lucy Horsefield (LH), chief operating officer of International House World
  • Mark Hilton (MH), who leads on immigration and skills for London First
  • Sarah Cooper (SC), chief executive of English UK and chair of the session.

What do we know about Brexit and migration so far?

Introducing the session, English UK Chief Executive Sarah Cooper explained that ID cards would be phased out "in due course", but there are plans for an expanded Youth Mobility scheme which would allow under-30s to enter the UK for two years' work or study.

There is currently a consultation on the Immigration White Paper, with some feedback already coming from the Education Sector Forum of which English UK is a member. There are currently plans for a "bespoke" forum focusing on the ELT sector and those bringing in students for short term study.

In the case of a no-deal Brexit, freedom of movement would end "as soon as possible" and the Government hopes that the immigration white paper will become law in January 2021. During a transitional period EU citizens could enter as they do now, but if a course was 90 days or longer they would need to receive temporary leave to remain.

"That's all we know at the moment. Lots of clarification is still needed but it's important to reflect on what we do know. The world will not come to an end on March 30, and we are not expecting people to need passports on that day," she said.

What's the mood in ELT?

LH: "Disbelief."

EM: "We are just trying to reassure parents, agents and students, trying to keep it as factual as possible. The challenge is that information keeps changing and there are more no-deal notices some of which are not clear so we are doing our best to interpret so we can cascade to students and agents. We are also making sure staff know about the settlement scheme."

What are people worrying about?

LH: "Our members are very worried about ID cards."

EM: "This doesn't change immediately so it gives us all time to prepare, educating agents and students that they need to get passports and ETAs and build that into the cost."

What should ELT centres be doing now?

PS: "We've been told quite recently that in the case of no-deal, as of 30 March, everything is not going to shut down. People will still be moving in and out – but they will get a stamp in their passport – and they won't stop ID cards being used because they can't.

"There will be a lot of confused border staff. You need to know where are your students coming from, who is coming, when are you expecting them. Also it's Easter just after and you may have staff or students going on holiday – you don't want them to come back with the three-month stamp in their passport because then they will have to apply for leave to remain.

"The Government went silent on this as it's a grey area, and I said my clients need to know their students and staff can get back in. I am an optimist and think they are dealing with it, but I advise knowing who those students and staff are, and make sure you give them a letter before travelling which explains that they are studying or working with you, returning to the UK and should not have their passports stamped."

LH: "Agents and customers are looking for clear information and direction and by communicating well and providing good customer service schools have an opportunity to shine and make a positive impact during a period of uncertainty."

Help make the new immigration system work

PS: "They are creating a new immigration system for 2021 and it's very important to remember this is a white paper at the moment and they are consulting on it. Now is the time to be feeding into that. It's a great opportunity to shape the system and make it fit for purpose."

MH: "I think the Home Office is trying to make this work and I'm impressed with the ambition they have for the new system. The salary and operational barriers in your sector aside, it's got a lot going for it but as Pat says the chaos is stopping officials doing what they need to do."

"I want to hear more loudly about a proper growth strategy for students in colleges, universities and language schools. We need to get ahead of the competition. "

SC: "I sit on a group with a few other education representatives, chaired by the DIT and DfE- it's an exciting initiative and recognition that this is an export industry that brings a lot of money into the UK and has a lot of opportunities for growth. There is enormous support and I take a lot of encouragement from that."

PS: "You are the sector that lobbied for the ESVV and how successful you were in getting that 11-month visa. It's important to lobby. There is going to be an education strategy, the government is looking at that and you have to make sure your voice is heard as a sector and it not be all about universities and independent schools. You have opportunities to shout about your sector and present evidence."

SC: "Think about transferring from language school or college into HE - I asked that question in the Home Office and it wasn't slapped down. They are aware of that issue and it is absolutely something we will lobby for on that bespoke forum."

Questions from delegates:

Michelle Dwyer, University of Liverpool Language Centre: "Will students need T4 visas?"

PS: "We have been told EU students will fall under a revised T4 system and should expect that to happen in 2021. If you are a provider without a T4 licence and you are going to need one, you should think about it now."

Jane Dancaster, Wimbledon School of English: "We have the SVV and ESVV, do you think we will have the same in future?"

PS: "You need to make it happen. We are moving into a system with less differentiation between the sectors."

Adrian Butcher, TWIN: "Can we get messages overseas?"

SC: "We will be using the Partner Agency Scheme and other communications to explain to agents in the EU, but we are waiting rather than having lots of statements about things that might or might not happen."

Jose Brinkman, Country Cousins: "What about flights?"

MH: "I've heard flights might be capped at 2018 levels and that would be a problem."

SC: "We will circulate the government's advice on flights if there is no deal." Read Flights To And From The UK If There's No Brexit Deal

Question asked on behalf of absent member: "What about Erasmus schemes?"

EM: "There is a no deal notice which says Erasmus is underwritten to 2020 but nothing beyond that." Read Erasmus+ If There Is No Brexit Deal


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