Currently EU (and EEA/Swiss) students are treated the same as UK students in the UK higher education fee regime. This means that they are charged lower fees (capped at £9,250 in England) and have acccess to student loans - so they don't have to pay fees upfront and only have to pay fees back when they are earning a decent salary.
Since the Brexit vote the future of EU students has been thrown into uncertainty (would they continue to receive special treatment or would they be treated like other international students who tend to pay significanlty higher fees?)
Finally, the government has announced that (in England at least) they will NOT receive any special treatment and EU students applying to start a degree in England next year will be subject to higher international fees (and not have access to student loans). Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have yet to announce how EU students applying to study in these UK nations will be treated. Read the full announcement from the government on EU students from 2021.
So, for EU students - if you start your course this September you will benefit from being part of the currrent lower fee regime. If you leave it until next year you will face sigificantly higher fees!
Of course the cynic in me says that the UK government is using this as a tactial move a) as leverage in EU negotiations but also b) to bolster student numbers this coming academic year (as Covid19 threatens to decimate international student recruitment).
If this is the case, it is potentially storing up more pain for universities in the long run as, even if the 'covid-crisis' is over next year, we will not see an upsurge in student numbers as EU students turn away from the UK in droves.
There will be more announcements to look out for. We expect to hear soon how Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be treating EU students from next year. But I also sense that, once we get through the current September recruitment crisis, there may be some 'sweeteners' on the horizon to counteract the impact of this policy and avoid a "Covid-Brexit double-whammy" for UK univeristies!