Campuses fear losing 10 per cent of fees as Europeans stay away

Latest financial data show how some institutions are more exposed to EU student demand than others

July 16, 2021
An advertising billboard with good riddance and image of Boris Johnson for Campuses fear loss of fee income as Europeans stay away
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Some English universities could lose up to 10 per cent of their fee income if forecasts about the loss of revenue from European Union students come to pass, Times Higher Education analysis suggests.

Latest figures on institutional finances from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa) show that fees from EU students represented about 6 per cent of income for the sector last year, but at a few institutions the figure was much higher, including four that relied on EU students for more than a fifth of their fee revenue.

A report from England’s university regulator, the Office for Students, last month said institutions were expecting recruitment from the EU to plummet by 35 per cent up to 2024-25 because of Brexit changes that mean EU students no longer have the automatic right to pay the same fees as UK students or access to government loans.

Across the whole sector, universities are expecting this to cut their EU fee income by only 1 per cent, due to many anticipating a higher international fee compensating for any loss of demand.

However, less selective universities – some of which have offered a transitional fee arrangement to EU students this autumn where they are still charged the same as UK counterparts – are forecasting a bigger hit of up to 40 per cent in their EU fee income.

If such a drop in income did come to pass, then around 20 institutions could see their overall revenue from teaching fall by 5 to 10 per cent, although such a loss could be mitigated by recruiting more domestic or non-EU international students.

Some of them also had a large number of students from eastern and central Europe enrolled last year, according to Hesa data. Ucas figures show that these are the markets that have weakened the most in applications to study at undergraduate level this year.

Examples include Solent University, which relied on EU students for 18 per cent of its fee income last year, and University College Birmingham (UCB), where 27 per cent of fee income came from EU learners. Both also had hundreds of students enrolled from countries such as Romania, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic.

Both are also among institutions offering EU students fees at the same level of UK applicants this autumn. However, if they were to lose 40 per cent of EU fee income over the next few years, this would amount to about £4 million at UCB (11 per cent of all 2019-20 revenue from fees) and about £6 million at Solent (7 per cent of fee income).

A Solent spokeswoman said: “During this challenging time for the sector, we continue to use detailed market, competitor and recruitment insights to inform our planning and to create a course portfolio that will deliver growth and allow us to compete successfully.

“We are continuing the development of an attractive and competitive offer, focusing on delivering investment where demand is high, with a data-driven approach and a focus on research and knowledge exchange.”

UCB was also approached for comment.

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