Brexit would put off international students, survey shows

Loss of fee income if Britain leaves EU could be worth £700 million a year, claims new report

May 17, 2016
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Obstacles to study: survey suggests that the UK would be much less attractive to international students after Brexit

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.

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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.

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Reader's comments (2)

I'll preface this by declaring myself on the side of the #strongerin campaign. But dealing with international students on a daily basis I can assure you that not one of them has ever asked about or voiced concerns over a potential Brexit. Most want to know about post-study work and getting Tier 2 sponsorship. Comes up as afterthought in this post / survey. I'll go as far as to predict that, should the UK exit the EU but bring back post-study work visas, it will see a significant boost to its international recruitment figures and reputation as a study abroad destination.
It's interesting how Jeremy Cooper stated that Universities "must become more understanding and responsive to what students want from their investment in higher education". It seems, according to the survey's results, that the government should also do so as what most foreign students want is a chance to stay in the country for a work experience after their degree (e.g., post-study work VISA). I think that Brexit will cause many EU students (a large slice of that 47% if not more, I would predict) to migrate elsewhere in Europe or, it will increase the appeal of non-EU destinations such the USA and Australia, which offer incredibly higher value for the cost of fees, and more chances to obtain of post-degree employment and a work VISA. Many EU countries already enjoy a higher education system far superior to the UK (and massively cheaper, even for foreigners) and a lower cost of life. I am a EU migrant to the UK and after spending a few years here, working in HE, I would definitely advice foreign students to go elsewhere, if asked, even now that Britain is still "in". The "true" standards of HE in the UK are incredibly low, sometimes lower than what is taught in secondary schools elsewhere in Europe, and costs are unreasonably high. UK Universities, with very few exceptions have poor infrastructure for students compared to US, Australia, and some countries in Northern Europe (not too mention some Universities in Asia, admittedly not an experience for everyone). A plethora of rules, paperwork, procedures, and the obsession for assessment/cross-assessment makes student and academic life - frankly - pretty miserable. All this is what UK Universities need to rethink to attract foreign students in the future.

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