London institutions ‘could see biggest student Brexit fallout’

Capital’s institutions have highest reliance on European students, THE analysis of latest Hesa data finds

January 13, 2017
A young couple painted as EU flags protest on outside Downing Street against the United Kingdom's decision to leave the EU following the referendum
Source: Getty

Small and specialist institutions and London universities could stand to lose out the most if European student numbers fall after Brexit, an analysis by Times Higher Education reveals.

The analysis looks at which universities have the highest proportion of European students on their books and so could be in a vulnerable position if these numbers dwindle when the UK leaves the European Union.

It finds that students from the EU make up 20 per cent or more of the postgraduate student body at 12 universities. The same can be said for three universities in terms of European undergraduate learners.

The analysis is based on the latest data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency on student numbers for the 2015-16 academic year, released on 12 January. It looks at the number of EU students compared with the number of students from all domiciles.

When each UK university is ranked in terms of the proportion of its student body that has come to the UK to study from Europe, clear trends emerge across undergraduate and postgraduate education.

At postgraduate level, there is a high reliance on European students at some universities. The University of St Andrews had the highest share of EU students among its postgraduate population in 2015-16 at 27 per cent, for example (see top 10 below).

Top 10 UK HE institutions for % of EU postgraduate students

Higher education provider Number of EU students 2015-16 % of all students in 2015-16
University of St Andrews 745 27
Guildhall School of Music and Drama 90 25
Royal College of Art 405 25
Cranfield University 955 24
London School of Economics and Political Science 1,365 24
Abertay University 75 23
University College Birmingham 105 23
Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance 55 22
Royal College of Music 80 21
Royal Academy of Music 80 21

Source: Hesa

Looking at the top 20 for the proportion of EU postgraduates, small and specialist institutions dominate, with 10 having a proportion of EU students above 17 per cent. Students hailing from Europe make up one-quarter of all postgraduates at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the Royal College of Art.

Three London universities feature in the top 20 for postgraduates and eight of the 10 small and specialist institutions in the top 20 are in London.

The universities of Oxford and Cambridge are also among the UK’s highest for the share of postgraduates from the EU, at 19 per cent.

When looking at undergraduates, small and specialist institutions also feature heavily in the top 20. At the Royal Academy of Music and the Royal College of Music, one-fifth of undergraduates are from Europe, for example (see top 10 below).

Top 10 UK HE institutions for % of EU undergraduate students

Higher education provider Number of EU students 2015-16 % of all students in 2015-16
University of Aberdeen 2,075 21
Royal Academy of Music 75 20
Royal College of Music 85 20
Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance 115 16
Guildhall School of Music and Drama 85 15
Queen Margaret University 525 14
Courtauld Institute of Art 25 14
Glasgow School of Art 205 13
Soas, University of London 420 13
Imperial College London 1,200 13

Source: Hesa

Six London universities also appear in the top 20 including Soas, University of London, Imperial College London, King’s College London, University College London and City, University of London. All but two of the nine small and specialist institutions in the top 20 are situated in London.

Overall, the data published by Hesa show a 2 per cent increase in all students enrolling at UK universities in 2015-16 compared with 2014-15. Enrolments from students in certain European countries have fallen over the past five years, including the Republic of Ireland, Germany, Greece, Poland, Cyprus and France.

But more students from Italy, Spain, Romania and Bulgaria enrolled at UK universities in 2015-16 compared with 2011-12.

It is not yet clear what will happen to EU students after Brexit. Until plans to leave the EU are made, it is not known if European students will need visas to study in the UK or whether universities will be able to charge them the increased fees that they charge non-EU students.

An analysis by the Higher Education Policy Institute, also published on 12 January, found that some less prestigious universities could lose about £100,000 a year in fee income from a drop in EU student numbers but that an extra £2 billion could be up for grabs overall if student demand rises because of a weaker pound.

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