Impact of Brexit on Higher Education Sector in the United Kingdom
Over 120,000 European students contributing to more than 6% of all full-time students, presently study in UK universities. According to BBC, this creates over £3 billion revenue for the UK’s economy along with roughly 20,000 jobs. On a broader level, the higher education sector in Britain contributes 2.8% of the GDP and generates £73 billion annually; meanwhile creating more than 750,000 jobs. Undoubtedly, the UK education market is likely to face challenges as the United Kingdom officially leaves the EU once Brexit is in place.
What’s Happening Now
Owing to the significant tuition fees charged by the British Universities and to enhance their overall learning experience, an increasing number of British students have chosen to pursue their higher education in other European countries. Additionally, EU laws on international higher education have encouraged students to broaden their horizons by promoting diversity on university campuses.
From the other perspective, the EU has funded towards research in many British universities over the last few years. UK universities have received nearly £8 billion funding combined from both the European Research Council & the European Commission. This figure is just for the last 10 years. Brexit may potentially cause reductions in such investments.
Potential Impact of Brexit on Higher Education in Britain
Once the UK officially leaves the EU, tuition fees may increase as European students will be treated as international students. The Visa process in this case would also become more intricate and complicated. Similarly, UK students looking to study abroad and experience different cultures while studying, will be treated as international students in European countries. While the UK remains a part of the EU, European students studying in Britain are eligible to pay the same amount of tuition fees as UK students.
However, as a consequence of Brexit, there could be a significant reduction in the number of students from across Europe who choose to come to the UK for further education. Brexit could also potentially have an impact on the number of academics coming into the UK from different countries.
The European Region Act Scheme for the Mobility of University Students (Erasmus) is funded by the EU. It has been running for more than 25 years. Post Brexit, British students could lose access to this programme and the opportunities it has to offer. Under this program, even academics can take up exchange opportunities. The level of access, and all other outcomes, ultimately depends on the final terms of negotiations and the relationship between the UK and European Union before Britain exits the EU officially.
The upcoming period is undoubtedly full of uncertainties and change but on the brighter side, the demand for higher education is very high in the UK. The expected reduction in the number of European students in the British universities is likely to be offset by the growing number of domestic students increasingly enrolling in these universities. Also, the reputation of the UK’s universities is expected to continue attracting international students. Keeping this in consideration, university leaders from 24 European countries signed a joint statement in 2016. This statement refers to the importance of continued collaboration of universities giving quality education the top most priority.