In the course of my teaching and coaching activities I meet lots of young musicians who have come from other European countries to study in the UK. Britain’s excellent music colleges and universities are extremely popular with Europeans, who often fund their studies through schemes like Erasmus. It’s worth remembering that ‘Erasmus’ in this context means ‘European Region Action Scheme for the Mobility of European Students’.
‘Mobility of European students’: a great idea from which British students may soon be excluded.
While they are here, many European music students form support networks, chamber groups, and links to UK orchestras, not to mention personal relationships. As a result they often decide to stay and make London the base for their career. They enjoy its ‘melting-pot’ atmosphere and the stimulus of being amongst other high-powered international musicians.
They were shocked by the result of the EU Referendum, in which they were not allowed to vote. Ever since last June they have been waiting for clarity on their situation. Will they be able to complete their studies? Will their funding be withdrawn? If they are planning to stay on in the UK for postgraduate study, will that still be possible? If they go home to visit their families, will they need visas to come back again? If they stay here for the long term, will they need to apply for touring visas every time they leave the country to play a concert elsewhere? Will they even be allowed to stay here in the long term? Nine months have gone by without these questions being answered, and they understand that they are bargaining chips.
Already some of my young friends have decided to return home for good this summer. They say it is too nerve-racking to wait here in a state of such uncertainty, and their families are anxious. Just last week a young Spanish musician told me sadly that she would not have chosen the UK for her studies had she known that Britain would be outside the EU by the time she finished. These young European musicians are some of my most talented students. I feel ashamed and wish I could reassure them, but I can’t.