If you’re feeling a little confused about the recent developments in the news surrounding Brexit, don’t worry: you’re certainly not alone. With the planned Brexit day of 29th March having been and gone and numerous possible outcomes still on the table for the UK’s exit from the European union – a short delay, a long delay, a no-deal Brexit, a Norway-style arrangement, a soft-Brexit, a hard Brexit and so on – it is easy to get lost in all the jargon. One group which is particularly interested in the implications of Brexit is, of course, international students looking to study in the UK.
With 10 of the world’s top 100 universities in the world located in the UK, according to this year’s Times Higher Education World Education Rankings, it is no surprise that international students flock in their droves to apply to the UK to benefit from the outstanding quality of education available, and many continue to do so even as the uncertainty around Brexit remains. Indeed, figures released in February this year by UCAS (the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) indicated that the number of students applying to UK universities from both the EU and outside the EU actually rose for this coming academic year, with the most notable rise occurring among non-EU students at an increase of 9%.
To help you cut through the uncertainty, in this guide, we look at studying in the UK after Brexit and what this could mean for you as an international student.
The benefits of studying in the UK as an international student
First off, as the UCAS figures mentioned earlier show, from the perspective of international students, the UK is a very attractive destination for higher education, with the quality of the teaching and research carried out at British institutions respected all around the world and consistently recognised in global league tables. Although small in geographic size, the UK is a big player on the international stage for higher education: something which is unlikely to change over the next few years.
As a consequence of this reputation, the cohort of students attending UK universities is diverse. Notably, top London universities are especially popular with international students; Imperial College London is over half international, with 52% of their students coming from outside the UK, according to the World University Rankings (both EU and non-EU).
With this in mind, choosing to study in the UK will not only allow you to immerse yourself in an excellent, enriching educational experience and improve your English-language skills, but you will also be studying in a truly cosmopolitan environment alongside motivated students from all around the world. And, with the number of international applicants to UK universities increasing, this situation looks likely to remain the case after Brexit.
Will I feel welcome studying in the UK post-Brexit?
The short answer is: absolutely, yes. When it comes down to it, universities are, by their very nature, full of highly intelligent, globally-minded individuals who recognise the value of having an academic community which is as diverse as possible. Universities have joined forces following the referendum result in 2016 through initiatives such as the #WeAreInternational campaign in order to show their support for international students and academics looking to study in the UK after Brexit.
Although, of course, policy affecting international students is set by the government, not by universities, it is notable that many higher education institutions are taking steps to ensure that the post-Brexit situation is as positive as possible. Indeed, the Russell Group (formed of some of the UK’s top universities) has confirmed that they are working closely with the government to ensure that universities and the research community receive the best possible outcome from the negotiations to leave the European Union.
Although small in geographic size, the UK is a big player on the international stage for higher education: something which is unlikely to change over the next few years.
Tackling the nitty-gritty: visas and tuition fees
Of course, it would be remiss of me not to address the obvious questions surrounding visas and tuition fees for both non-EU and EU students looking to study in the UK after Brexit. Firstly: if you would be classed as a non-EU student, you can relax. If you are from Africa, Asia or elsewhere outside the EU, your visa requirements as well as the level of the tuition fees you have to pay will be handled in the same way they are now.
For EU students, the situation is slightly less straightforward. Although EU students currently pay the same tuition fees as home students, there is the possibility that they will have to pay the higher fees which non-EU students currently pay in the UK after Brexit. However, this alteration is yet to be confirmed, and if the UK agrees to stay within the European single market as part of a ‘softer’ Brexit, it is likely that European students would continue to be treated the same way as British students and would be charged the lower tuition fees.
You might also be wondering about student visas, which non-EU students have to fill out and EU students currently do not. If the UK does choose to withdraw from existing agreements on freedom of movement during the Brexit process, future EU students may need to apply for a Tier 4 Student Visa or a short-term study visa in order to study in the UK. However, even if a student visa is introduced for EU students, it is very straightforward to fill out, with online guidance available here.
The takeaway message from all of this is that, day to day, the quality and style of education in the UK remains the same, and the positive approach to international students looks likely to remain the same in the future, given the globally-recognised benefits of a UK higher education, and the impetus for universities to protect their international students. With this in mind, if you are considering studying in the UK as an international student in the near future, I would say, just go for it and keep your finger on the pulse!
So, what next?
My top tip for international students considering study in the UK is the following: keep an eye on the official website of your university of choice, or even contact them directly, to find out about any possible guarantees they might make for international students after Brexit. This will make sure you stay informed as the political situation develops, and help feel secure that you have made the best possible choice of higher education institution for your future.