Brexit Hits U.K. Universities As E.U. Students Look Elsewhere


Nick Morrison
Education Contributor

U.K. universities are reaping a reverse “Brexit dividend” with a sharp drop in the number of applications from E.U. students.

The news leaves higher education in the U.K. bracing itself for a financial hit from the loss of international students, on top of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Student applications from the E.U. for enrolment in 2022 at the most selective universities and on the most selective courses fell by 16%, according to figures released by university admissions body UCAS today.

This compares with a fall of less than 1% in applications from the rest of the world, and follows a near 20% drop in applications from the E.U. last year, the first application cycle following the U.K.’s exit from the bloc.

The figures, covering applications to Oxford and Cambridge universities and to study medicine, dentistry and veterinary science, will be keenly watched by other universities, which have later application deadlines for the vast majority of their courses.

Today’s figures account for around one in 10 of all applications to study in the U.K. in the 2022 cycle.

While Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised the U.K. would experience a “Brexit dividend”, the impact on higher education so far seems to be anything but beneficial.

As well as the loss of E.U. students, the U.K. also misses out by no longer being part of the Erasmus student exchange scheme, while U.K. scientists may be excluded from E.U. research programs.

International students represent a valuable source of income for universities, which have already been hard hit by the pandemic.

As well as tuition fee income, universities have also lost revenue from accommodation, conferences and events, with an estimated loss of £11bn ($15bn) in the long-run, according to one estimate.