This is the question that many UK universities are wrestling with at the moment, the Government’s recent announcement that EU students will continue to be able to access the tuition loan for a further year has kicked the can a little further down the road, but it is clear there is not much more road available.
When the Government finally issued the long-awaited White Paper outlining the Government’s negotiating position (even though their own party basically destroyed the position within 48 hours) it became clear that if we get what we want we will stay in the Erasmus programme, and that there will be an easy route for EU students to get the necessary paperwork to come and study. Both positive developments.
However, it is equally clear that EU students will not be able to continue to access their tuition loan, and without access to that loan the number of students able to afford to come and study here (even if fees are held at £9,250 for EU students) will tumble, probably dropping by around 85%.
So that means there are going to be around 100,000 mobile English-speaking students who won’t be coming to the UK. But one has to assume that a good percentage would still want a UK degree and UK experience if it were available. So, the challenge is how a UK university can offer this.
Universities also should use this shake up in the status quo to see if new models could also provide a solution to increasing the number of non-EU international students able to study with them.
We believe there are a number of methods that UK universities should be considering, some obvious, and some maybe less so. These include:
- A Presence in Europe. An increasing number of UK universities are now planning to go down this route, and it has obvious advantages (as well as risks). If you are able to establish yourself in a student friendly market, you will not only have a base to continue to offer programmes to EU students, but also potentially an ability to mitigate the risks of losing research funding, and create a hub for attracting international students from markets that it has been difficult to target in the past.
We are seeing lots of models under consideration, from acquisition, to joint venture to the establishment of a “campus within a campus” partnership model. One comment I would make based on the projects we have seen is that the level of cash investment required is a lot lower than I had thought.
- Dual Degree Programmes, in all their various flavours, either delivered exclusively in the partner university, or based on a mobility model (2+1, 3+1 or 1+1). With the right partner this can give good numbers, we have recently been developing projects with guaranteed numbers in the hundreds.
- Feeder Programmes. We are looking at developing these with a number of private universities in key EU markets, their students would be able to complete the first part of their degree in a lower cost market before coming to the UK for the last year of their degree. We also think there could be scope to develop these relationships to provide a route for non-EU students who would either not have the English or financial means to come to the UK for a full programme. For example, they could do a Foundation year in the feeder university to get English level up etc before coming to the UK.
- Articulation Routes. We are also looking at developing partnerships between universities in Europe offering UG provision, with UK universities offering Masters programmes, if the partnership consists of more than this (mobility and research) and is nurtured properly and the complete package marketed to certain international markets, we think this can provide a good number of students.
I also believe that BREXIT may offer colleges the chance to develop their HE offering to EU students, they will be able to deliver courses at a much lower cost than universities, and that is finally going to give them some competitive advantage. We are already discussing this potential development with some of the biggest recruitment agents in the EU who believe there will be a demand for this type of provision.