Britain has one of the best further education systems on the planet. Almost a quarter of the institutions on the European University Rankings Top 100 league table are in the UK. Britain’s further education system benefits a lot from international students too of course. There are currently around 73,000 undergraduate students from the EU and a further 140,000 from outside the EU studying in UK universities. This represents a significant chunk of further education funding; so how will Brexit affect this sector? Will it limit your child’s chances of attending university?
Students from the EU represent somewhere in the region of £3.7bn for the UK economy and its universities. If all of this income disappeared it would lead to a huge shortfall in many budgets. This deficit would have to be made up by the UK government – potentially leading to another hike in tuition fees.
Not only do universities get income from the number of EU students they accept, many also receive funding directly from Brussels. A growing number of research staff has said that their funding applications are now in doubt as a result of Britain’s decision to leave the EU. Around £1.2 billion a year is currently given in funding. More investment would have been forthcoming under the Horizon 2020 project but this requires other European institutions to cooperate. With Britain’s facing an uncertain future this looks unlikely.
The Pro-EU campaign group, Scientists for EU carried out a survey in the wake of the Brexit vote. It found that 51 out of 167 scientists had concerns about the future of research in Britain. 33 said they wanted to leave the country and 16 had already experienced disruption in their funding applications to the EU. This suggests that there are already funding headaches and these will only get worse after formal separation begins.
Not only do UK universities receive funding from the EU, there are many intellectual partnerships between British institutions and European universities. These ties benefit from free movement of people because a lot of staff tend to travel around in order to impart knowledge. Many of the senior lecturers in British universities are from the EU. If they left, there would be a significant shortage of lecturers – potentially undermining student enrolments and putting some courses in jeopardy.
Brexit has created some serious concerns for the future of further education but it will not impact your child for several years even if they are currently at secondary school level. Once the formal separation has begun many of the repercussions and longer term impacts will become clearer. Watch this space.