One in six UK business schools has reported a rise in the number of undergraduates from the rest of the European Union failing to turn up for their studies at the start of the current academic year.
In its annual member survey, the Chartered Association of Business Schools reported that 17.5 per cent of business schools saw an increase in “no-shows” for the 2016-17 academic year. Some schools reported a rise as high as 20 per cent. These figures came despite a majority of business schools receiving an increase in applications from the EU prior to the UK’s EU referendum in June.
Simon Collinson, chair of CABS and dean of the University of Birmingham’s business school from 2012-2016, said he believed this trend would continue, and that there would also be a “decline in applications” from EU students. He suggested that part of the reason has been the “push-back culturally” against EU nationals in the UK since the referendum.
“[These students] applied before Brexit, fully expecting it not to happen, and I think the European students seem to see an end to [the label of] ‘European’ and [a growing anti] ‘foreigner’ sentiment in the UK,” he told Times Higher Education. “There’s a cultural perception...which is a major issue for us.”
Not only would the UK lose out on “top-class” students in the short term, he added, but over the long term, UK institutions’ wider attraction to international students and faculty may also be affected.
“Immigration laws are starting to shut out talent and starting to push some of our faculty to go and look for jobs abroad because they’re finding it easier to have a base in another country,” he said.
“It’ll hit the European faculty flow initially...but if it continues to be problematic for non-EU [academics to work in the UK], we’ll get the worst of both worlds.”
Angus Laing, dean of Lancaster University Management School, said “clearly some institutions...have a quite significant fall-off” in student numbers, and that he was concerned that applications to Lancaster for next year are down by more than 20 per cent on this time last year, although he stressed that the "bulk will be coming through later".
He agreed with Professor Collinson that the “negative mood music” around Brexit was “impinging on our international students”.
“What’s frustrating, though, to the point of infuriating is that we continually enhance the quality and attractiveness of our offer, relative to schools globally, only for the political environment to profoundly undermine those efforts,” he said.
European schools are already capitalising on the “very negative effect” that Brexit is having on the UK as a welcoming destination for students, according to Santiago Garcia, dean and director of the Graduate School of Business of Grenoble School of Management, with Grenoble already seeing the “numbers of non-French nationals going up substantially” at undergraduate level.
“International students, being intrinsically interested in global affairs, see that their opportunities to prosper in the UK have been curtailed in recent years,” he said. “In addition, other countries in continental Europe decrease the barriers and offer more opportunities for students to receive a very high quality of education followed by a professional career.”
Dennis Vink, programme director of the International MBA at Nyenrode Business University in the Netherlands, said he expected there to be an increase in applications to his institution in the wake of Brexit.
“I would believe the business schools of the more stable northern European countries like the Netherlands and Scandinavian countries will be attracting more and more students in the future, in comparison with those in the UK,” he said.