Charles Cormack

How can UK universities mitigate the effects of Brexit?

How can UK universities mitigate the effects of Brexit?

UK universities have led the world for many years in the provision and delivery of higher education to international students. There are currently around 310,000 international (non-EU) students, and 127,000 EU students studying in UK, generating approximately £25 billion for the UK economy.

Providing education to international students is extremely important to British universities and has historically been particularly lucrative, the ability to attract and retain top talent from around the world also enhances universities ability to attract funding for innovative research, and contributions to enriching the university experience for all students.

A British degree is still amongst the most highly regarded globally. However, the government is under political pressure regarding migration to the UK, and has pledged to act to reduce numbers. Unfortunately, this has dramatically decreased the number of international (non-EU) students particularly from India, Pakistan and parts of Africa.

The slowdown in the world economy has also hit the UK market as students from outside the EU have begun to look at other markets such as Australia and Holland, to find high quality higher education taught in English. To address this, UK universities have started to establish campuses abroad, i.e. in China, Malaysia and Singapore, and have established dual and joint degree programmes in Asia and Africa.

Looking abroad

The Brexit vote has put extra stress on the viability of some institutions with around 700 job losses since. It is forecast that Brexit will lead to a drop of around 80% in the number of EU students coming to study in the UK, and threatens student mobility through Erasmus programmes and research funding through Horizon 20:20.

It is now more important than ever that UK Universities look at the EU as an international market. So how should universities approach this change?

They have a number of options.

Stopping International Work

A small number of regional universities may consider stopping international activity altogether. However, in a more global world, young people do not want to attend an insular institution.

Establishing a Branch Campus

Some institutions are looking at the possibility of establishing a physical presence in Europe and purchasing relevant local licences which will allow them to teach and deliver degrees, and access research funding. This sounds like a daunting prospect, but in fact buying a private university is not as expensive as you may think.

Create Dual Degree Programmes (Deep Partnership)

This may be the best solution for most universities. For both under and post-graduate courses, UK and EU universities can form close partnerships to deliver their degrees in the partners country. The UK university would be able to support the recruitment of international students from countries where visa regulations would make coming to the UK an issue, also the likely price differential will potentially open new markets with a dual branding and marketing opportunity. Higher education has always benefited from international student populations and Brexit is forecast to affect these populations badly. The possibilities outlined above could allow UK universities to continue their involvement in international education, as well as allowing local partner universities to increase international student numbers.

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