Earlier this month, Rishi Sunak laid out his half-baked plan to keep Britain’s youth studying Maths. For Europe’s scholars, however, seeking an education in the UK is a prospect that financially no longer adds up. Applying to university in the UK has lost its shine.
Since the UK left the European Union, the number of EU students enrolling to study in British universities has dropped by more than half with figures showing the sharpest decline from Italy, Germany and France.
Brexit has been blamed for this decline. Prior to Britain leaving the EU, students paid home fees of just over £9,000 and had student finance available to them. This is no longer available to EU students who do not already live in the UK with settled or pre-settled status. Instead, they could be faced with fees as high as £38,000 if they decide to enrol.
The number of EU students who enrolled in UK universities for their undergraduate or postgraduate degree fell from 66,680 in 2020 (the year before Brexit came into full effect) to 31,000 in 2021. Undergraduate study was the hardest hit, with only 13,155 EU students applying in 2021 for the first year of a primary degree in comparison with 37,530 the year before.
Overall, data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) shows that there are still 120,000 EU students in the UK system, down from 152,000 in 2020-21. This does include those who enrolled prior to Brexit and are currently completing their studies.
On the other hand, the amount of Chinese students has risen from 107,000 in 2017-2018 to 151,000 last year.
Meanwhile, the Turing Scheme, the UK’s much-derided replacement for the Erasmus exchange scheme, is coming under scrutiny. It has been reported that young Brits hoping to study or train abroad this academic year have received £22million less than they would have received under Erasmus.
Data from the 2022/23 academic year shows that £106m was given out by the UK government, compared with €144m (£128m) under the UK’s last grant from the EU-funded Erasmus+ scheme in 2020. Some students even told OpenDemocracy that this financial disclosure was not made to all students prior to their studies abroad began, leaving their time away from the UK fuelled with financial uncertainty.
There is no denying that this is a significant blow. But the reasons why are twofold. Firstly, it weakens the economic situation of colleges that ordinarily relied on EU students being enrolled in three or four-year courses. Secondly, has a knock-on effect on the science and research sectors with postgraduate degrees acting as a pipeline into the industries. This only adds to the burden Britain’s membership to Horizon hitting an impasse has created.
It could be a while before the tide turns and European students fill Britain’s lecture halls. In the meantime, the young are evidently serving up their own lesson to the government when it comes to Brexit. But, are they listening?
Perhaps it’s the Brexit ultras, rather than Europe’s scholars, who need to go back to school.