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British universities bear the brunt of Brexit as EU enrollments decline

The number of European Union students enrolling in Britain's leading universities declines.
BY Cherryy Chauhan |   14-01-2019

BrainGain Magazine

While Trump’s anti-immigration policies have been plaguing the international student enrollments in the US (Source: IIE Open Doors 2018), Brexit has done a similar number on British universities. Ahead of the next Brexit vote, a major drop in enrollments has been recorded in the number of European Union students enrolling in Britain’s leading universities in the 2018/2019 academic year (Source: Reuters). The total number of European Union students has decreased by 3 per cent with a 5 per cent drop in the number of postgraduate taught students, and a 9 per cent drop in postgraduate research students, according to The Russell Group – a coalition of 24 leading British universities.

Simultaneously, university leaders from over 150 institutions issued a statement in March 2018 that if Britain left the European Union without a deal, it would take decades to recover from its contribution to the sector. These include leaders from Universities UK, the Russell Group, Guild HE, Million Plus and University Alliance - which together contribute around 21 billion pounds ($27 billion) to the economy and support 944,000 jobs (Source: Russell Group).

With the 2016 Brexit vote, many leading British institutions have suffered a loss of research funding grants from the EU that have resulted in a shrinking number of enrollments of European students.

In a letter to the government, university leaders highlighted the impact on vital research links, from new cancer treatments to technologies combating climate change, that would be compromised due to Brexit. “The valuable exchange of students, staff and knowledge would be seriously damaged,” they said. “It is no exaggeration to suggest that this would be an academic, cultural and scientific setback from which it would take decades to recover.”

While the UK remains the second most popular study destination for international students after the US, the numbers of international students have been fluctuating sharply. According the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), in 2016-17, the total number of international students fell by about 1% compared to the previous year. Now with EU enrollments also down, the UK government must think how much of a price they are willing to pay for Brexit.

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