Since the 2016 referendum result to leave the European Union was announced, there has been speculation and some concern about the potential impact on student numbers in the UK.
i-graduate, global leader in benchmarking the student experience, received responses from 14,648 students from across 187 countries querying the impact of the UK’s decision to leave the EU:
"After the UK's vote to leave the EU, would you be more likely or less likely to choose the UK as a study destination, if you made the decision again?"
We (i-graduate) first raised this question in the 2016 International Student Barometer (ISB), the global benchmark for the student experience. The ISB tracks and compares the decision-making, expectations, perceptions and intentions from application through to graduation.
One year on, we raised the same question to enable us to see how views have changed.
The latest results suggest there’s no sign of a softening of EU student views on Brexit:
- 56% of EU students would be less likely to study in the UK
- 39% of EU students said Brexit would make no difference
- 5% of EU students said they would be more likely to study in the UK
We were surprised that these results were unchanged on 2016, showing that there is no sign of a shift in EU student views on Brexit over the past year. As the dust settled, and the media attention declined, we might have expected a fading of the negative perceptions over time.
"39% of EU students said Brexit would make no difference"
What about the impact of the Brexit decision outside the EU?
The Brexit result has had a more mixed reaction outside the EU which was again reflected in the latest survey results:
- 18% of non-EU students would be less likely to study in the UK
- 65% of non-EU students said Brexit would make no difference
- 17% of non-EU students said they would be more likely to study in the UK
Again, these results are very similar to 2016, when 19% said they would be less likely and 16% more likely to study in the UK. Exactly the same percentage (65%) said Brexit would make no difference to their decision to study in the UK.
"The latest results suggest there’s no sign of a softening of EU student views on Brexit."
Drilling down into the results by country
We’ve seen that the impact of Brexit varies considerably between EU and non-EU students. There are interesting variations and some more positive findings when looking at the results by country.
Within the EU, students from Spain and Germany seem to have the least positive view of the Brexit decision, with a respective 64% and 72% of students saying they would be less likely to study in the UK. This has worrying implications for future EU enrolment numbers as Germany accounts for the largest number of EU students studying in the UK.
In contrast, the results from students from China and India suggest a more positive reaction to the decision, with a respective 22% and 27% of students saying they would be more likely to study in the UK.
"17% of non-EU students said they would be more likely to study in the UK"
It looks like the current uncertainty in the Higher Education sector around future EU enrolment numbers continues for now. It is, however, encouraging to see that the views from key countries outside of the EU are more optimistic about the future of the UK as a study destination.
Important decisions relating to any post-Brexit settlement on the practicalities of visas, student loans and research funding are likely to be significant on future flows both inside and outside the EU, making it an important time for the UK Higher Education sector to make sure its priorities, concerns and opportunities are heard.
Understand more about the impact of the Brexit decision on students’ likelihood to study in the UK – by key countries: