What are the different fee statuses and how are they assigned?
UK Universities categorise all their incoming applications at undergraduate level into Home/EU fee status or Overseas fee status. They need to make this distinction because they receive funding for Home/EU students but not for Overseas students and therefore, Overseas students will pay more for their degree than Home/EU students. The process of assessing a student’s fee status is to determine if they are eligible for that funding or not. In order to do this, universities use a set of rules and regulations published by UKCISA to a range of different student backgrounds and circumstances.
For the most part, this assessment is quite straight forward but for some ‘borderline’ students it may be harder to assign a fee status, such students might be British/European citizens living overseas, refugees, asylum seekers or leave to remainers, for example. Here universities use their discretion, interpretation of the rules or internal policy to determine fee status, as the UKCISA rules and regulations can fall short of providing a clear answer. In these instances, universities may automatically assign an Overseas status and leave it to the student to contest it or they may require students to submit further information to assist with the assessment of their fee status. Because each university is using their discretion in these instances (and therefore, applying a slightly different policy), it’s often the case that a student will receive some Home/EU offers and some Overseas.
What are the fees and funding options for the different fee statuses?
Tuition fees differ depending on where in the UK the student is applying to university. Home/EU fees in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are currently set at £9,250 per year. Overseas fees range from £14,950 to £58,600 per year depending on the course and university. 
In Scotland, Home/EU (Scottish and EU students) fees are currently £1,820. Students applying to Scottish universities but living in England, Wales or Northern Ireland are classified as RUK (Resident UK) students and have to pay £9,250. Overseas fees range from £14,600 to £49,900. 
In any of the four countries, most students who are eligible for Home/EU fees are also eligible for a student loan (and sometimes a grant) to cover or part-cover their tuition and maintenance costs. Depending upon where the student lives, applications for student loans have to be made via the relevant student loans company such as Student Finance England http://www.sfengland.slc.co.uk, Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) www.saas.gov.uk, Student Finance Wales www.studentfinancewales.co.uk or Student Finance Northern Ireland www.studentfinanceni.co.uk
Overseas students may have to pay additional fees, such as college fees at Oxford or Cambridge, that can be around £10,000 per year on top of tuition. Maintenance (or living) costs for all students are around £10,000+ per year of study.
Overseas students cannot apply for student loans to cover their tuition or maintenance costs, so their funding options are very limited. They also may be required to pay more of their tuition fees upfront and/or pay an interest fee if they wish to pay in instalments.
An additional factor to consider is that some courses, such as Medicine, cap the number of places available to Overseas students and therefore, the competition to get in is much higher. Some Medical degrees have as few as 7 places for Overseas students but will still receive hundreds of exceptional applications.
All of this means that the stakes are high for receiving a Home/EU fee status if the student is eligible.
Who is eligible for Home/EU fees?
Being a British/EU citizen or holding a British/EU passport is not enough to qualify for Home/EU fee status. Nor does owning property in the UK/EU or having lived there previously. If you have left the UK/EU and now live abroad or have recently returned to the UK/EU after a period away, you may have lost your eligibility.
There are two main points of the rules and regulations that determine who is considered a Home/EU student.
Firstly, Home/EU students need to demonstrate that they have been ‘ordinarily resident’ in the UK for at least the three years prior to starting university. It is possible to have ordinary residence in more than one country at a time, so living outside of the UK alone won’t necessarily jeopardise the student’s UK ordinary residence. This means that, despite living abroad, they should continue to have a ‘habitual and regular mode of life’ in the UK/EU country, maintaining strong connections that demonstrate that the UK/EU country is their permanent home country. This can be demonstrated through a number of ways including, regularly visiting the home country, owning property, having family based there etc.
Secondly, students need to show that any absence from the UK/EU is of a temporary nature and that it is their intension 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.
Generally, if a student fulfils the criteria for ordinary residence and temporary absence and is able to provide solid evidence for this, then they will be perceived as Home/EU, although there are always anomalies! Completing university applications and forms correctly and presenting the right evidence is vital for a successful outcome.
UKSO are the leading experts in UK University Fee Status. We have been advising schools, families and students around the world on this complex topic for 10 years and have helped over 1,000 expat families with their fee status queries. Get in touch for a personalised Fee Status Appraisal.