Drop in EU student applications to UK universities as Brexit starts to hit

Students celebrate graduation at Norwich Cathedral

Students celebrate graduation at Norwich Cathedral - Credit: Archant

Universities are relying on students from outside the EU to fill the void left by fewer applications from European students.

New UCAS statistics show that the number of EU applicants is now down by 2% (860 application) to 43,030.

The students will have applied before the January 15th deadline knowing that they will be attending in September 2020 when Brexit will have started to hit.

The government had tried to assure EU students about their studies by guaranteeing those starting in September will have access to the same tuition fee loans and financial support as UK students.

By contrast a record number of students from outside the EU have applied - up 14.7% from the year before.

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It shows a majority of those applications comes from China, India and Hong Kong.

It means that, at the January deadline, for the first time this year, there were more applicants from China than from Wales (18,430) and from Northern Ireland (17,400).

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By the end of this year's application and acceptance cycle, in the summer, the number of students from China accepted on to courses could be higher than from Northern Ireland, UCAS said.

UCAS chief executive Clare Marchant said it showed UK institutions had a "global appeal".

She said: "The global appeal of studying at our world-class universities and colleges is once again proved by record application numbers from international students."

But those in the education sector called on the government to do more to assure EU students.

Jihna Gavilanes, president of Studee - which helps students find and apply to universities abroad, said: "It's worrying but not surprising to see a drop in the number of EU students applying to study in the UK. The process of finding, applying, enrolling and starting at universities overseas can take 12-15 months. EU students have been kept in the dark for a long time and the uncertainty is likely to have put many off.

"To keep EU students interested in studying in the UK it's important the government release plans ASAP to help students who are making their decisions now for the next phase of enrollments. There's currently no reassurance for students who are considering studying after 2021 and if this doesn't change soon we're likely to see even less EU students applying in the following years if plans are not released soon.

"It's really positive even more students from outside the EU are applying to study in the UK than ever before. Students from overseas bring the UK economy billions of pounds every year."

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