EU student numbers dropping by half in UK a Brexit side-effect
At the same time, the number of foreign students from non-EU countries has risen significantly. Scotland, who voted to remain in the European Union at the 2016 Brexit referendum, experienced a similar decline. The Scottish National Party's education spokesperson called the situation devastating.
In 2016, the Brits voted to leave the EU, which was, in practice, a long process. The United Kingdom officially left the European Union on 31 January 2020, but after that it operated under the EU rules until 31 December 2020 in the so-called transition period. The UK’s departure has impacted several areas since 2021, one of which is education.
According to the latest data published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), the number of first year students domiciled in the EU has dropped dramatically. The relevant statistics suggest that 31,400 EU-domiciled students enrolled to British universities for the 2021/2022 academic year. It is 53 per cent less than the previous academic year, when 66,680 such enrollments were registered. The number of first-year students from the EU had been around 65 thousand each year since 2017/2018, the agency wrote, adding that the plunge can clearly be attributed to Brexit.
It is interesting to note that the same period saw a marked increase in the number of students from non-EU countries. 350,325 people enrolled from outside the EU for the 2021/2022 academic year, whereas the same figure was 264,880 in 2020/2021, HESA writes. Since the 2017/18 academic year, their numbers clearly show an upward trend (2017/18: 189 505, 2018/19: 207 820, 2019/20 255 585). Most non-EU students came to the UK from China, accounting for 27% of all non-EU students in the 2021/22 academic year. In a five-year period between 2017/18 and 2021/22, the number of students coming from China increased by 44,475, with their proportion rising by 41%.
Similar trends were seen in Scotland, which voted to remain in the European Union at the 2016 Brexit referendum, Euronews writes in its article. Asked about the recent survey, Scottish National Party’s education spokesperson Carol Monaghan said
“it is devastating that Brexit is denying Scotland the opportunity to attract the best and brightest young talents that Europe has to offer”.
The Scottish politician also noted that the only way Scotland will be able to rebuild its connections with its European neighbours is with independence. Ms Monaghan also highlighted the adverse impact on Scottish students.
“The EU’s Erasmus scheme gave our young people fantastic opportunities to study and explore in Europe and the UK’s alternative Turing scheme is a pale imitation of Erasmus,”
she pointed out.
As an outcome of Brexit, EU students need to pay higher fees, Euronews writes, noting that before Brexit, EU students paid fees of just over 9,000 pounds (10,255 euros) in England and Wales. Fees have soared to as high as 38,000 pounds (43,300 euros) after the UK withdrew from the bloc.