World-class UK teaching will still attract students


While the debate regarding Brexit is raging still, students and people involved in the higher education system are getting more supportive of staying in the EU by the day. In fact, many od\f them are active participants of the campaign advocating to keep Great Britain as the part of the EU.

It’s not surprising that this particular segment of society has taken such an active stand against Brexit as at the moment, 5% (124,575) of all students attending British universities come from different parts of the Union. The majority of them are studying on the same terms as the Brits, including the fees that max at £9,000.

However, should the Exit happen, all these and any potential other people who seek to study in Britain would fall under the rules of foreign students. This would mean no student loans and no cap on the fees. At the moment, an international student coming to the hallowed halls of British universities on those terms can expect to pay up to £17,000 a year for humanities and £21,000 for a scientific degree. This change is sure to cut down the number of young people coming to study in the UK, which would lose Britain its position as the second most popular student destination in the world.

Such a fall would hit the leading Russell Group universities hardest and degree courses such as business, engineering, law, architecture, maths and computer science.

EU students, however, make up less than a third of total overseas students at British universities, with 312,010 international students last year from non-EU countries, the largest number from China.

There are also 31,635 EU academics at British universities, almost 16 per cent of the total, predominantly in selective and specialist institutions. This figure has been rising rapidly, and EU academics are more likely to be working on the most highly rated research and in STEM subjects.

Understandably, the discipline with the greatest number of academics from the EU is modern languages but also popular are engineering, physics, maths, chemistry and computer sciences.

The impact of Brexit on academic recruitment is less clear: lecturers and researchers from EU countries would, presumably, need a visa to come with their families but as highly educated applicants with a job offer, this should not be a barrier.

More likely, though, this would add administrative costs to universities, although they are used to this: there are another 23,360 overseas academics from beyond the EU, chiefly America, China, India, Australia and Canada.

Research funding and collaboration in the EU is the biggest argument used within universities in favour of remaining: vice-chancellors say British universities receive about £687 million in research income from EU sources of all types.

Britain does disproportionately well in winning EU research grants, 15 per cent of the total and second only to the Netherlands relative to GDP and population size. Supporters say this is because British ministers were able to shape EU rules by arguing that research funds are allocated according to quality, benefiting Britain owing to its number of top-ranked universities.

Leave campaigners say that leaving the EU would give ministers total control over research and other higher-education funding, meaning that they could more easily reflect national priorities.

Fact or fiction?

Students would not be able to study abroad if we left the EU

Megan Dunn, president of the National Union of Students, said that if Britain left the EU, freedom of movement to study abroad would be threatened. Ms Dunn said today’s students wanted to work together with allies across Europe, and “fear isolationism, not internationalism”.

The head of UCL, the British university with the most students from the EU, also warned that if Britain left the EU those students would have to pay higher fees. This could have a knock-on effect as universities would have to locate extra funding.

Vote Leave say that young people will still be able to study abroad if Britain were to leave the EU. The campaign says that many countries outside of the bloc take part in the Erasmus overseas study programme, so Britain would be able to as well.

Leave campaigners also say that leaving the EU would mean Britain would have more control over which research projects universities chose to conduct. Facts Students from elsewhere in the EU pay the same fees as British students: up to £9,000 per year. Non-EU students have to pay more. Their fees are not capped and some courses (such as medicine) cost more than £30,000 per year.

Britain gets grants from the EU which fund university research. The EU also funds Erasmus, under which students can study overseas. About 20,000 British students took this up last year, and more than 200,000 students across the EU have taken part in the scheme since its inception.