The number of European Union students applying to early deadline university courses in the UK has fallen by 9 per cent in the wake of the country’s vote in favour of Brexit.
Ucas said that 6,240 EU-domiciled students applied for courses starting in 2017 that had an application deadline of 15 October – medicine, dentistry and veterinary degrees, plus programmes at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge – compared with 6,860 for 2016 entry.
Cambridge said that its EU applications had dropped by 14.1 per cent year-on-year, from 2,652 to 2,277. A spokesman said the university was “disappointed” and that the figures reflected the “considerable uncertainty” felt by EU students. But he argued that Cambridge remained “an attractive place for EU students to study at”.
The overall data are the first sign of how students on the Continent may respond to the UK’s vote to leave the EU and follow several years of consecutive growth in applications.
But the fall may be partly attributable to the fact that it was not until 11 October that the government confirmed that EU students starting courses in England in 2017 would continue to be eligible for home fees and student loans for their duration of their course, even if the UK leaves the EU during that period. Wales and Scotland swiftly followed suit.
Nicola Dandridge, the chief executive of Universities UK, said that the full picture would not be evident until the main application deadline in January.
“This fall does, however, highlight the importance of ensuring that prospective European applicants are made fully aware of the fees and financial support arrangements well in advance of the applications window,” Ms Dandridge said. “It is important also that we make clear that European students continue to be welcome in coming to the UK to study.”
Ms Dandridge said that the government should extend the existing transitional arrangements to EU students considering applying for courses in 2018, “to avoid future uncertainty”.
Medical schools appear to have been particularly hard hit in the 2017 cycle, with their EU applicant total dropping by 16.1 per cent, from 2,050 to 1,720.
Oxford said that its EU applicant figures were “more or less steady” compared with last year, with a rise of about 1 per cent.
“While there has been understandable uncertainty around the implications of the UK’s exit from the EU, we are confident that students from the EU continue to see Oxford as a welcoming and attractive option for undergraduate study,” a spokeswoman said.
The total number of applications for the 15 October deadline was 57,190, up 1 per cent year-on-year. Applications from the UK increased by 2.9 per cent, while applications from outside the EU rose by 0.6 per cent.
A UK government spokesman said: “It is too early in the application cycle to predict reliable trends, but the overall increase in applicant numbers is positive – and suggests even more students will be able to benefit from higher education next year."