UK urged to continue to welcome students from EU and worldwide post Brexit

by Ray Clancy on May 26, 2017

The Brexit settlement that the UK reaches with the European Union over the next two years should be one that continues to welcome overseas students, according to the universities sector.

There is concern that the number of EU students applying to study in the UK is falling as they are concerned about what their status will be when the split happens in 2019. But there has also been a fall in interest from students from outside the EU concerned at reports that there will be fewer visas available post Brexit as part of a pledge to reduce immigration overall.


The most up to date figures from the university applications body UCAS published earlier this year show that the number of students applying for places from the EU are down by 7%, the first decrease in almost a decade.

It has also been revealed that applications from across the EU have already dropped by 14% at Cambridge University, one of the top universities in the world, for undergraduate courses alone.

Last October, home secretary Amber Rudd announced several consultations on student visas, in the context of a series of strategies to reduce overall immigration numbers. She outlined a possible two tier system, in which tougher rules would apply to students enrolling in lower quality courses.

Much of course will depend on the Brexit negotiations. EU officials want immigration to be sorted out first and not discussed alongside other issues like trade but the UK has indicated that they should be negotiated together.

Universities UK, which represents the sector, is urging politicians to take into consideration a number of priorities when forming their policies on higher education and post Brexit immigration is one of the top ones.

‘There are a number of key election issues that will have a direct impact on universities. In particular, Brexit and immigration policy. It is important that the voice of universities is heard in this debate,’ said Dame Julia Goodfellow, president of Universities UK and vice-chancellor of the University of Kent.

‘The vote to leave the European Union and the general election present an unparalleled opportunity to re-think the UK’s immigration system. If we are to keep up with competitor countries, we need a new system that welcomes international students and staff and promotes the UK as one of the best places in the world for higher education and research,’ she added.

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