Concerns about xenophobia and tighter immigration controls post-Brexit are set to trigger a slump in UK universities’ international student recruitment, a poll has suggested.
A survey of 1,014 overseas students conducted by the student recruitment and retention solutions company Hobsons found that 34 per cent of the 875 who were not already registered at a UK university said that they were less likely to do so in future because of the vote to leave the European Union.
A further 7 per cent of respondents, drawn from the EU and further afield, said that they would definitely not come to the UK in light of the referendum result.
Among students who said they would not or were less likely to study in the UK, 59 per cent attributed this to a feeling that the UK was now a less welcoming place for international students, while 56 per cent felt that it would be harder to get a visa. Poorer post-study work options were also a major concern.
However, 51 per cent of all respondents who were not already registered at a UK university said that Brexit would make no difference to their decision to come to the country.
And a small proportion – about 8 per cent – felt that they were more likely to study in the UK, or would definitely do so, because of the referendum result.
Of these, 52 per cent felt that the UK was now more welcoming to international students, perhaps reflecting how 87 per cent of survey respondents were from non-EU countries. The weaker pound making a UK degree less expensive was cited by 43 per cent.
Jeremy Cooper, managing director of Hobsons EMEA, said that UK universities needed to respond strongly to an inevitable “period of uncertainty”.
“International students still represent a significant strategic opportunity for UK universities,” Mr Cooper said. “Market conditions for international student recruitment look set to toughen, and universities need to send a clear message that the UK welcomes international students, as well as providing practical guidance and support.”
Respondents were also asked which countries might be more or less attractive to them as study destinations in light of Brexit, with anglophone countries – Canada, the US, Australia and New Zealand – being the major beneficiaries. Germany, France and Italy were also looked on more favourably.
Interestingly, China, Malaysia and Hong Kong were viewed as being less attractive post-Brexit, suggesting that the weaker pound may be particularly attractive to students from these countries.