EEA staff in colleges

Brexit means changes to how colleges hire EEA nationals from 2021. There is no firm data on the proportion of EEA nationals in colleges but AoC workforce surveys estimate that colleges employ an average of 20 EU nationals. This adds up to a total of 7,000 people or 4% of the college workforce. Around 85% of colleges surveyed employ at least one EEA employee whereas 5% reported more than 20. Colleges employ an estimated 189,000 people, of whom 76,000 are teachers. College employment is geographically dispersed with substantial numbers in relatively small towns whereas the UK's EU27 population is weighted towards bigger cities.

The UK’s departure from the EU brings an end to freedom of movement between the UK and the EU. It also sees the introduction of a single set of immigration rules (the 'points-based system') from 2021 which cover EEA and non-EEA nationals. This means that: 

  • EEA* nationals who are already resident in the UK in 2020 should apply for EU settled status before 30 June 2021.
  • EU nationals arriving for the first time after 1 January 2021 will need to come through the new immigration rules.
  • EU nationals wishing to work in the UK from 2021 will either need to have EU settled status or a skilled worker visa.
*EEA nationals' here refers to EU27/other EEA/Swiss nationals benefitting from citizens’ rights under the EU Withdrawal Agreement i.e. EUSS holders, EEA EFTA Separation Agreement or Swiss Citizens’ Rights Agreement. The rights of Irish Nationals to study and to access benefits and services will be preserved on a reciprocal basis for UK and Irish nationals under the Common Travel Area arrangement. 


Colleges should continue to check an EEA job applicant's right to work in the same way as now until 30 June 2021Colleges wishing to employ newly-arrived EEA nationals from 2021 will need a licence to sponsor skilled workers i.e. a 'Tier 2' sponsor licence. Government guidance about skilled worker sponsorship is available here. The key points to note are: 

  • Colleges and the job roles that they advertise must meet certain conditions to comply with Tier 2 sponsorship rules. 
  • Applicants to the Skilled Worker route will need to:
    • Speak English at the required level
    • Hold a job offer at the required skill level of RQF3 or above
    • Be paid at least £25,600 for the job offer (£20,480 in some limited instances)
  • Teaching, administrative and management roles in colleges are not currently listed on the UK Government's shortage occupation list.
  • Employers usually need to pay the immigration skills charge. 
  • There will not be a general route for employers to recruit from outside the UK for jobs below the Skilled Worker salary and skill levels.

AoC partners with Irwin Mitchell to provide support to our members on employment issues. Please check the AoC employment webpages for more information.