What will be the impact of Brexit on international student mobility?

The impact of Brexit on the global student mobility is going to be far reaching. With nearly 10% market share of globally mobile students, the United Kingdom is the second largest destination for international students. British higher education institutions enrolled 436,585 students in 2014. These international students formed nearly one out of every six student enrolled in the UK.

One of the prime reason for the growth in international student enrollment had been the mobility within Europe. In addition to quality, proximity, lower of cost education for EU students and common European Higher Education Area supported the growth of EU students which formed 29% of all international students in the UK. EU students were more likely to enroll in undergraduate degree programs.

Non-EU countries form 71% of international students. In last few years, the numbers of international students from non-EU countries have been stagnating on declining. For example, the number of Indian students coming to the UK declined by 18% from 2012-13 to 2014-15. China, the largest source country forming 29% of all non-EU students grew at a much slower pace of 7% in the same period. Non-EU students are more likely to enroll in postgraduate programs at master’s level as compared to EU students.

Post-recession, UK policies have been making it consistently more difficult for international students to study and stay in the UK. For example, Post Study Work visa which allowed non-EU students to work for two years in the UK was abolished in 2012. With the strong anti-immigration stance of Brexit and an uncertain economic impact, many international students would start considering alternative destinations including some of the EU countries which have launched English-taught master’s programs.

Despite the quality and value offered by many British universities, the negative perceptions and uncertainties triggered by Brexit will hurt international enrollment at these institutions.

In July, I will be in Liverpool to deliver a plenary with Erich Dietrich of NYU on Global Citizenship and Student Success at The British Universities’ International Liaison Association (BUILA), a membership organisation of 139 the UK higher education institutions and over 2,000 international recruitment and promotion professionals at UK higher educational institutions. I will be reporting more from the conference.

– Dr. Rahul Choudaha

Data on Mobility and International Students in the UK