Students Turn Their Backs On Britain Over Brexit Fears
Applications to study at U.K. universities have fallen as students turn their backs on Britain over Brexit fears.
Figures released today show that the number of EU students applying to U.K. universities this year has fallen — reversing several years of growth.
University leaders cite Brexit as one of the chief causes of the decline, with continued uncertainty over the status of non-U.K. students once Britain leaves the EU.
And the slump highlights fears that higher education will be one of the biggest losers of Brexit, with falling applications combining with less access to European research funds and intra-EU collaborations.
Applications to study at U.K. universities fell by 5% this year, according to today’s figures from university admissions body Ucas.
The figures show that applications from the EU excluding the U.K. had risen steadily from 43,290 in 2013 to 51,850 last year, but this year fell back to 49,250.
Non-U.K. students represent a significant source of income for cash-starved universities, and signs for a drop will send warning bells across the sector.
Pam Tatlow, chief executive of the MillionPlus group of universities, said the data was ‘not good news’ for higher education.
‘The EU market has been an area of consistent growth in recent years and the 5% fall in applicants will create additional concerns,’ she said.
‘There is no doubt that the government’s approach to Brexit is damaging and is creating huge uncertainties, both for EU students and U.K. universities.’
The government’s failure to clarify the status of EU citizens post-Brexit, and Prime Minister Theresa May’s continued insistence – despite opposition from within her own cabinet — that students should be included in immigration targets, has fuelled anxieties that threaten to undermine the world-class reputation of U.K. higher education.
Sarah Stevens, head of policy at the Russell Group of research-intensive universities, said international students made a major contribution to the higher education in the U.K.
‘We don’t yet know how these figures will translate into offers and acceptances. However, if students are being put off by the uncertainties of Brexit, this would be a concern,’ she said.
‘International students bring social and cultural diversity to our campuses and this benefits all students, and they contribute £25.8 billion ($33.3 billion) to the U.K. economy.’
Applications by U.K. students also fell, by 4%, the first drop since tuition fees were raised to a maximum of £9,000 ($11,600) in 2012. Fees are going up again this year, to £9,250 ($11,950).
But there was some comfort for university leaders as applications from outside the EU rose by 2%.
China is still by some way the largest source of non-U.K. students. This year 13,390 students resident in China have applied to U.K. universities, followed by Hong Kong with 5,960 and France with 5,110.
The number applying from the U.S. has risen to 4,400 from 4,040 last year, an increase of almost 9% year-on-year and 27% over the last five years.
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