University Challenge

Universities in the United Kingdom today called on the Government to make clear whether or not European Union students will pay the same fees and have access to the same financial support post-Brexit.

Speaking at the Universities UK annual conference in Nottingham president Julia Goodfellow (pictured above) said this was the “immediate challenge” facing the sector, one that could be addressed by government through transitional legal arrangements for EU students starting courses in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

“Put simply, universities are currently unable to answer two crucial questions that are being frequently asked by prospective EU students considering whether to apply to start courses in the UK in autumn 2017. What fees will you charge for any years of my course which are post the date of exit? Will I be able to access any financial support?”

Dame Julia said universities and overseas students were important to national and local economies, contributing nearly 3 per cent of UK GDP and generating more than 750,000 full-time jobs. The UK leads the world in terms of return on investment from commercialisation of research and matched the United States in its level of engagement with industry. In 2015 alone there were 4,100 new start-ups created by UK graduates, many of which were nurtured by universities.

UK universities were home to 125,000 students and 43,000 staff from the EU.

“At last count, the UK higher education sector generated nearly £11bn a year in export earnings,” Dame Julia said.

“As such, we make no apologies for continuing to make the strong case for a government-backed campaign to promote the UK’s world-class higher education sector across the globe, accompanied by a visa regime that makes clear that international students and staff are welcome and make a highly valued contribution to the British economy and society.

“If Britain is to meet the government’s own target of increasing total education exports to £30bn by 2020, it needs a new approach to immigration that is proportionate and welcoming to genuine international students.”

A spokeswoman for UUK told that EU students generated £3.7bn and 34,000 jobs across the UK. 

“This makes EU and international students one of the UK’s largest and most important exports, offering a significant opportunity to drive economic growth now and post-Brexit,” she said.

Dame Julia said UCAS applications for the 2017-18 academic year opened yesterday and it was important that the government act quickly to prevent a sudden decline in EU student applications.

She said UUK was seeking government support in four important areas:
  • To enhance international research collaboration in Europe and across the globe
  • Policies to ensure the UK remains an attractive destination for overseas students and staff – including immigration policy reforms
  • Improved mobility programmes to enhance opportunities abroad for UK staff and students
  • Increased public investment in research and innovation

By Aban Contractor