Concerns voiced over Brexit effect on international students in UK

by Ray Clancy on October 4, 2016

The UK has some of the best universities in the world which attract students from many different countries, but concerns are being voiced about falling numbers.

It is now more expensive than ever to study at a British university with fees from £9,000 a year, higher for some of the top institutions, but the number of international students have fallen and are at their lowest since 2007.

University-StudentsData from the Office of National Statistics shows that in 1977 there were 29,000 international students, rising to a peak of over eight times this amount in 2010. However, recent years have seen a decline in students arriving to study, with numbers falling to 164,000 in the year ending March 2016.

There are warnings that the decision to leave the European Union could pose a threat to higher education in the UK. Not only could it make it more difficult for students from EU countries, but academic staff fear it could affect work and relationships with other universities in the EU.

Some research has already indicated that students from EU countries are increasingly looking at other options, with as many as 40% ruling out applying to a British university due to uncertainty about their immigration status after Brexit.

The British Prime Minister has confirmed that she will trigger Article 50 to start the leaving the EU process by the end of March 2017 and that Britain will have left by 2019. But there have been no details available on what will happen to foreign students who have started studying before then and will continue to do so after 2019.

According to Phil Baty, editor of the Times Higher Education world university rankings, the UK must ensure that it limits the damage to academics, students, universities and science during its Brexit negotiations to ensure that the UK remains one of the world leaders in higher education.

‘As well as some top academics reporting they have been frozen out of collaborative research projects with EU colleagues, many are admitting that they might look to relocate to a university outside the country,’ said Baty.

He pointed out that a Times Higher Education survey conducted before the referendum found that 40% of university staff said they would be more likely to leave the country in the event of a Brexit.

It is also having an impact on the UK’s potential to attract international talent in the future. More than two fifths of prospective overseas students said they were less likely to go to a UK university due to the referendum result, according to a survey by Hobsons.

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