Sunday, September 24News For London

The curious case of EU students in the UK universities after Brexit

Numbers of EU students applying for the UK universities have decreased by 7% to reach 42,070 students for 2017 cycle. The Universities and Colleges Admission Service (UCAS) announced last February.

(Photo by: John Walker-Flickr)

EU students have a significant contribution to UK economy. They generate £3.7bn for the UK economy and support over 34,000 jobs in all corners of the country, according to analysis last year from the board of Universities UK, which is a pool for 24 vice-chancellors of universities in the UK.

Numbers of EU students in UK over the past five years (Photo by: UCAS)

Amid fears of higher tuition fees and raising cost of living, the UK might not be the best destination for EU students. Tal Rimon, 31 years old, a German journalist who seeks to pursue her Master’s degree in Journalism said: ” Yes, UK has the best Universities to study in Europe, but the message I understand is that we (Europeans) are no longer welcomed in London.” A sharp look drew on her face during our Skype talk. “ I really wanted to come. I worked for that during the past two years and I saved around £9,000 to study Journalism in London, but now this is not enough.” She added: ” If the amount is not enough in London, they will be enough in Sydney or Washington. They have a wonderful educational system there as well.”

Number of German students in London has been declined by 10 per cent in 2017 to reach 2,820 students after they were 3,150 during 2016.

Germany and France are the biggest two EU countries in regard to numbers of students in the UK universities through the last five years.

Numbers of EU students in by country of domicile (Photo by: UCAS)

Some of the current EU students showed their shock from the current vibes the UK is pulsing. Marc Farràs, 28 years old, a current Master’s degree student from Spain said: “ I came to London attracted by the idea of a tolerant, open-minded and welcoming society.” A few seconds of silence passed as If Marc is imagining how London will be in 2018, then he added: “As for the EU students, I am sure many of them are reconsidering their decision to apply to British universities, not only because of the fees but also due to the political and economic uncertainty, as the job market will probably suffer severe cuts. In my particular case, I would never have been able to study here If have the same fees as abroad students.”

Marc Farràs feels disappointed about the future of Britain in general after Brexit (photo by: Marc Ferras-Facebook)

This case of fear and reluctance, Brexit brought, made the government keen to announce in October 2016 that EU students applying for a place at an English university or further education institution in the academic year 2017/2018 will continue to be eligible for student loans and grants despite Brexit.

Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, Jo Johnson.

This announcement by the government couldn’t stop Higher Education experts from showing explicitly their fears from what they called “catastrophic” consequences Brexit could bring to their industry starting from 2018.

The Vice-chancellor of the University of Westminster, Professor Geoffrey Petts said his university is expecting to lose around 2,000 EU students during the academic year 2018/2019. In his spacious office where you can feel, in each and every angle, the history of his university that goes back to around 200 years ago, Professor Petts said that there is “no plan so far” regarding the status of EU nationals who are teaching in the UK universities after Brexit. “We have to continue pressing on government to reach a clear decision very quickly. I want to re-assure to my EU staff that they have a future in Britain,” the vice-chancellor said.

The Vice-chancellor of the University of Westminster, Professor Geoffrey Petts

On the other hand, many universities in the UK have shown their concerns about the future of research funds they are taking from EU.

Professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), Fawaz A. Gerges, told us: “What educators in Britain fear the most is the future of funds they are receiving from EU. British Universities are receiving hundreds of millions of pounds from the EU in terms of grants and scientific exchange. ”

Professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), Fawaz A. Gerges

The UK is the 2nd largest recipients of research funding in the EU. Over the period 2007 – 2013 the UK received £8.8bn out of a total of £92.6bn expenditure on research, development and innovation in EU Member States, according to The Royal Society statistics.

Distribution of EU expenditure on research, development and innovation. ( Photo by: The Royal Society)

These concerns both academics and students showed, made the Universities UK in February 2017 address the government a short-term transitional arrangements to avoid these concerns. Among these measures:

  • The immediate confirmation by the government to the rights of residing and working in the UK post-exit for EU nationals that are currently working in the university sector and their dependents.
  • Confirm that EU students starting a course in 2018–19 and 2019–20 will continue to be eligible for home fee status, and be eligible for loans and grants. 

Although the UK is ranked the 2nd in the world for quality of research by 164 higher education institutions that can award a degree, all expectations stating that a significant setback will occur starting from 2018. Those 42,070 EU students will no longer be able to continue their contribution to the UK GDP unless a quick move from the government is made as soon as possible.

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