Brexit and the impact on students

The European Union flag with one less star, signifying Britain leaving.
Brexit means Britain have left the European Union and this will have a big impact on both British and non-British students. Photo credit – free online image. 

The negative impacts on both British and EU students post-brexit have already affected Ucas applications, yet international student demand continues to rise.

Statistics published by Ucas after the March application deadline have indicated a 6% decrease in students from the EU, the lowest number of applicants in the past three years, as can be seen in the table below. Applications from the UK are also at an all-time low since 2013.


Tomas Fish, 20, a second year history student and part-time Student Voice team member, says: “I think this statistic will rise, because they [the government] haven’t done anything to die down all the bad attitudes…If you’re seeing a country that isn’t condemning hate crimes, I don’t think it’s one you’d want to visit too much.

“There will be less international students. That’s bad as they won’t feel welcome or it will be harder or more expensive, particularly for the European ones. But it will be worse for British students because the more diversity you have in the university, the better it is.”

International students beyond the EU

In comparison, applications from international countries outside the EU have increased by 2%. This is the only category that has seen a positive trend increase. British education is still highly regarded in a lot of countries and this may be the reason behind the boost in applications.

Shintaro Okuda, 27, an English student from Japan, says: “Because of Brexit, I could exchange my money tremendously cheaper. Therefore I could pay less tuition fees and get many necessities at a lower price. Brexit doesn’t deter Japanese students from studying in Britain at all.”

Despite negative attitudes to Brexit, many students don’t believe stricter regulations will impact those applying.

Frida Hammer, 21, a third year business student from Norway, says: “I do think there will be more rules that international students have to follow. I know students outside of the EU already have to do this so I’m sure these will soon have to be followed by everyone. But hopefully these new rules will not affect people studying in England and I don’t think it will.”

University support

With the imminent general election, it is largely uncertain as to who will be leading Brexit talks after Theresa May triggered Article 50 in March. But this creates concern over the treatment of international students.

Mr Fish comments: “Support for international students will only get worse if the current trend in government policies continues. I think a lot hinges on the election… But if the current government stay I don’t think it will get better. It will get worse because they are sliding further to the right and a harder Brexit.

“The Students Union has policies or tries to pass policies that say international students aren’t second class students. The fact that we need to pass these show that the university isn’t doing that anyway. I minute school forums a lot and it comes up in every school forum if there is an international student there. They will bring up the fact that they don’t feel as included.”

Protest saying
Brexit has stirred up a number of protests as many people were left shocked by the “leave” result. Photo credit Ben Scicluna on Flickr.

Rules and Regulations

International students outside the EU have to sign in for every lecture to ensure they can continue to study in the country for visa regulations. As a result of Brexit, this could become the same for EU students creating further barriers to inclusion and widening the gap in international relationships.

Mr Fish, who deals with international students on a regular basis, also had this to say: “I know people on my course that don’t turn up. If international students didn’t turn up, they would get threatened with deportation. It’s purely to do with border control, nothing to do with money because they have to pay up front…but it will get worse for people in the EU.

“I don’t think Brexit will be positive at all. So far from being a student and working in an  Students Union where students talk about it to us, I haven’t seen anyone expressing positivity.”

By Beth Fenner


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