How Brexit impacts the higher-education sector
Posted June 27, 2016
The recent vote for Great Britain to leave the European Union has caused concern among higher-education administrators, since it may spark significant changes in the U.K. education system that then may cause ripple effects in colleges and universities in the U.S. and other countries, Fortune reported.
Under the EU's "free movement" principle, students from other countries in the EU could come to the U.K. and pay the same tuition as local students — tallying to about £9,000 (or more than $12,000) annually. EU students could also "rely on the same U.K. loan facilities, whose terms — that borrowers only have to pay back loans once they reach earnings of £21,000 (or about $28,700) — are generous, at least by U.S. standards," Fortune stated.
The Independent published an impassioned open letter to voters from 103 vice-chancellors from British universities before Thursday's election:
"The impact of our universities on our local communities and economy should not be underestimated. Every year, universities generate over £73 billion (almost $1 trillion) for the U.K. economy — £3.7 billion (about $5 billion) of which is generated by students from EU countries, while supporting nearly 380,000 jobs," the letter said. "Strong universities benefit the British people — creating employable graduates and cutting-edge research discoveries that improve lives."
The letter argued that the U.K. voluntarily removing itself from the EU or the "world’s largest economic bloc" would undermine Britain's position as a global leader in science and innovation as well as limit opportunities for the British population — causing EU and international students to study somewhere else.
Fortune noted a major concern of U.K. university leaders is how the vote will impact the non-U.K. student population. There has been a recent correlation with the increasing number of EU and foreign students enrolling in U.K. universities while the number of U.K. students has decreased.
Michael Arthur, president of University College London, told Fortune that EU student enrollment at U.K. universities is expected to fall because those students will become foreign students paying higher tuition with no access to U.K. student loans.
However, Julia Goodfellow, the president of the higher-education action group Universities UK, told the Independent, "Our first priority will be to convince the U.K. government to take steps to ensure staff and students from EU countries can continue to work and study at British universities and to promote the U.K. as a welcoming destination for the brightest and best minds."
Pamela Barrett, the director of the international educational consultancy Barton Carlyle, told Fortune the number of international students in the U.K. student population should be significantly higher and Brexit may make it more difficult to add more international students. With large education systems in other countries that offer many opportunities for international students, “I have a feeling that Canada and the U.S. will benefit,” Barrett predicted.
BBC reported on a recent survey of students from 15 U.K. universities and concluded that the U.K. would have a harder time recruiting international students now that it has chosen to leave the EU. Forty-seven percent of survey participants said U.K. universities would be less attractive in the event of a Brexit. Eighty-two percent of EU students said a Brexit would make the U.K. less attractive, compared with 35 percent of international students.