EU students not deterred by Brexit as applications for UK universities rise

by Ray Clancy on February 6, 2018

Brexit does not appear to have deterred students from European Union countries from applying for places at British universities, official figures have found.

Overall the number of foreign students applying to universities in the UK has risen beyond 100,000 for the first time, a rise of almost 8%, according to the data from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS).


The number of applicants from the EU increased by 3.4% to 43,510, the highest number for any year apart from 2015 when applications hit an all-time high of 45,220 and the number of international applicants increased by 11% to 58,450.

In 2017 the number of students from EU nations applying to study at British universities fell by 7%, the first drop in almost a decade and this fueled concerns about the potentially damaging impact of the Brexit vote.

But the new UCAS figures show that a rise in non-UK applicants has helped boost overall numbers. Without them, the 2.5% fall in UK applicants would have been twice as large, according to the application organisation.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Government has announced that students from EU countries applying to study at Scottish universities will still not have to pay fees in the year after Britain leaves the EU.

The Scottish Government had already pledged to provide free tuition for EU students starting their courses in 2017/2018 and 2018/2019 and that is now being extended.

‘This will provide confidence for prospective EU students considering coming to study in Scotland, as well as the clarity that our institutions require in order to plan for that academic year,’ said Scottish Higher Education Minister Shirley-Anne Somerville.

British universities are highly popular with EU and international students because of the quality of the teaching and experience they offer, according to Helen Thorne, director of external relations at UCAS.

She believes that there are several factors influencing the increasing numbers of applicants from the EU and beyond. ‘For example, the weaker pound makes the UK a cost effective place to study and the Government’s confirmation that EU students starting courses this autumn will be able to benefit from the existing financial support arrangements will have been beneficial,’ she pointed out.

The Russell Group, which represents 24 of the country’s top research universities, believes that the post Brexit picture is clearer than it was a year ago and this will have helped to tempt more EU student applications.

‘Clarification that EU students starting courses in the UK in 2018/2019 will be eligible for home fee status and access to grants and loans is likely to have been an important factor behind the increase in applications from this cohort,’ said a spokesman.

‘We want the Government to ensure fees and finance arrangements for EU students remain unchanged during any transition period post-Brexit,’ the spokesman added.

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