Dramatic fall of foreign students in the UK after Brexit

Published 2022-01-06 17:49:52
College in Oxford

Two years have passed since Brexit and the start of the global Covid crisis. This seems like an excellent time to review how the various changes implemented have impacted the UK, focusing on the education sector. With the additional effect of the pandemic, British universities have had to come up with creative ways to encourage flagging international student admissions during this tumultuous time.

40% less EU students applying to prestigious UK universities since Brexit

According to Forbes, new EU student applications for 2022 admission at some of the most prestigious universities dropped by about 16%. This information was released by UCAS (The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service), which is a university admissions body. This massive decrease follows the 20% drop in EU applications for admission in the previous year which was the first application cycle since Brexit, maling it about 40% down over 2 years.

The statistics above were derived from EU student applications to the prestigious universities of Oxford and Cambridge in the medical, dentistry and veterinary departments. Other universities with later application deadlines for these faculties expected this trend to continue.

In addition, due to Brexit, the UK is also now no longer part of the Erasmus student exchange scheme, which has dried out this influx of EU students.

> Read our article: With Brexit, the UK decided to leave Erasmus+, without clear plan to replace it

Brexit may also preclude UK scientists from collaborating in various EU research programmes.  This could be a huge potential setback for the UK scientific community causing project delays and rising costs. 

British universities in desperate search for additional funding

UK universities are not only losing revenue from tuition fees but also from the associated fees like student accommodation, conferences and events. It is estimated that this loss could total approximately £11bn this year.

Attracting more non-European foreign students

One way in which universities are looking to negate the loss of revenue from EU students is by actively encouraging other international students. Despite the general downward trend in international applications, student applications from China, which makes up almost one-third of all non-EU student applications, increased by 5%.

Chartering planes

One approach some universities have used to entice foreign students to the UK was by chartering planes to fly the students to the UK. Thus, a group of universities joined in their common goal to bring foreign students to the UK by chartering special flights. This group comprised over fifty tertiary institutions, including many Russell Group universities like Imperial College London, Exeter and Bristol. They have already chartered four flights to transport about 1200 students from China who were starting their academic courses in September 2021.

These universities were compelled to take this unprecedented step because of the massive concern that pandemic travel restrictions would slash their income from foreign student fees by hundreds of millions of pounds.

China was the country they opted for because Chinese students make up a whopping twenty percent of their income, because of very high tuition fees (tens of thousands of pounds). For the academic year 2021-2022, there are about 220 000 students enrolled in UK universities, and at the moment, Russell Group universities have a very high admission rate from China (Chinese foreign students comprise ten percent of the total admissions).

International students pay almost four to five times more than local UK students thereby contributing vastly to the university’s annual income. 

Transport service from the airport

Shuttle services were organised to collect foreign students from Heathrow airport and transport them to their respective campuses. Any student quarantine needs were met by providing rooms and meals for the mandatory ten-day quarantine period.

Offer courses on online platforms

Another approach was to specially tailor courses on online platforms to facilitate distance learning for those students unable to travel to the UK. Students were also offered flexible start dates for courses to further increase the convenience for those opting to register for online courses.

However, while this strategy to attract non-European foreign students might be a plan for famous universities such as Oxford or Cambridge, possibilities are less likely to be a viable alternative for less reknown UK establishments.

Pressure to increase funding to exchange programmes

In Scotland and Wales, government officials are under pressure to increase funding to programmes that would restore fully reciprocal arrangements between themselves and EU countries in the hopes that it will encourage more EU students to their universities. Until Brexit, Scotland refused to apply the same university fees to other European countries as those charged in England, rather aligning these fees with the much lower amounts paid by Scottish residents.

Even though there has been a recent scholarship programme introduced in Scotland to provide financial aid to prospective EU students, officials believe there should be a government commitment to provide scholarships annually together with a mobility scheme that promotes “reciprocal movement” for Scots looking for opportunities in the EU and vice versa. This programme is believed to require about £19.7m annually. 

Scotland has taken this stance after the UK government ended its involvement in the EU’s Erasmus programme. The UK government has subsequently launched a replacement scheme, the Turing Scheme, which has still to demonstrate any impact and already created a lot of controversy regarding its effectiveness.

Raising costs and difficulties for foreign students in the UK

After Brexit, the UK government announced that the European Union (EU)/European Economic Area (EEA) and Swiss students will no longer be eligible for home fee status as of August 2021.

Thus, any EU students not classified with home fee status in the UK are expected to pay higher tuition fees compared with what they were paying pre-Brexit. Previously fees for EU students were limited to £9,250 per year but now they can expect to pay anything from £22,000 for an arts degree to £58,000 for a medical degree.

EU students are also no longer eligible for student loans to help pay for their studies. However, Irish students can still benefit from home fee status under the Common Travel Area (CTA) arrangement.

Another factor, aside from the cost of a UK degree, could also be the limited employment prospects in the UK after graduation for many EU citizens after Brexit. Difficulties with employment in the UK after graduation (especially with the necessity of getting a work visa) could be turning many prospective EU students away from UK universities.

> For more information about the changes on tuition fees of European students, see: Hike in tuition fees for EU students in the UK post-Brexit

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Author: KashGo
Expat Mum in the Desert and content writer for EasyExpat.com

For other discussions, advice, question, point of view, get together, etc...: please use the forum.

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