Nearly 50 per cent of international students would not view the UK as an attractive place to study if the upcoming European Union referendum resulted in Brexit, a new study has found.
As part of their annual International Student Survey, student recruitment and retention solutions company Hobsons sent an additional survey to more than 10,000 overseas students to gauge attitudes towards Britain leaving the EU.
Of the 1,763 responses, 47 per cent said that they would find the UK less attractive if it were to leave the EU. Nearly a fifth of respondents (17 per cent) thought it would make the UK more attractive, while 13 per cent did not know.
However, when broken down further into EU and non-EU respondents, the results were even starker. More than 80 per cent of EU international students said they would find the UK less attractive while 35 per cent of non-EU students agreed.
Applying the study’s results to statistics from the Higher Education Statistics Agency of the origins of international students in the UK in 2014-15, the survey said more than 100,000 students could be "at risk" of being put off studying at a British university.
In terms of the three largest groups of international students coming to the UK – from China, India and the US – the figures suggest that more than 20,000 Chinese students and 4,500 from both India and the US were at risk of being dissuaded from studying in the UK.
A conservative estimate of the cost of lost fee income from the 35 per cent of non-EU international students would exceed £690 million a year, while the wider economic impact would be far higher, the report warns.
The concerns over international students’ right to remain in the UK after studying were also thrown into the spotlight by the global survey.
Of the 43,919 overall respondents, about 47 per cent planned to stay in the country in which they studied for a period after completing studies. Fifteen per cent said they wanted to migrate permanently, while 32 per cent said they planned to stay temporarily in their destination country on a post-study work visa.
Jeremy Cooper, managing director of Hobsons EMEA, said that the findings showed that universities "must become more understanding and responsive to what students want from their investment in higher education".
"Only a truly competitive international recruitment strategy can identify the unique and specific demands that each prospective student has and address these by matching them to the value that the university can offer," he added.