StudyAdvantage Magazine

Brexit and UK Universities

Published: October 12, 2016

Brexit and UK Universities 2

The Brexit referendum has left us all wondering about the future. What will happen to UK higher education without the free movement of people, resources and knowledge across borders? What will happen to international students either thinking of or currently studying in the UK? What will be the repercussions for the UK job market (and London in particular)? In an attempt to cut through the current state of uncertainty, StudyAdvantage has compiled this article with helpful information from industry sources.

The slight fall of UK universities in the most recent QS university rankings has been partly attributed to the June 23rd Brexit referendum. While some say this shift is the beginning of what is going to become a disaster for UK higher education in the long-term, others remain hopeful. Difficulties in attracting international students and staff as well as funding (often times directly paid out by different organs within the EU) will certainly take its toll on rankings and vice versa. However, these potential scenarios are just that – potential. Nothing has been confirmed regarding the outcome of this referendum, and the aftermath is yet to be determined by upcoming negotiations in the next two years. The current status of foreign EU students and workers currently residing in the UK remains unchanged for the time being (until Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty is triggered). The UK government has, however, said in a statement that it “recognises and values the important contribution made by EU and other non-UK citizens who work, study and live in the UK”, clearly signaling a positive view on attracting foreign talent.


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London is a major attraction for EU citizens looking for an international education. The future of the London job market will likely impact the UK’s attractiveness for international students.


As we await results from the negotiations, it is important not to get lost in too much speculation. Uncertainty itself is no danger, although the short-term implications may be felt. After all, the UK is home to one of the world’s most prestigious and powerful higher education industries, with a strong lobby group behind it to protect its interests. The UK higher education sector has a vast political influence within the UK and is sure to make their voice heard at the negotiations table. Dame Julia Goodfellow, president of Universities UK and vice-chancellor of the University of Kent, wrote shortly after the vote in the UK paper The Telegraph:


“Internationally, university leaders will be loud and consistent voices in championing diversity, tolerance and internationalism and promoting the UK as the most welcoming destination for talented people from across the world.”


In conclusion, the future is unclear. The only thing that anyone can confirm at this point is the importance and influence of the UK higher education sector, who’s interests are clear: pro-internationalization, pro-diversity and pro-exchange of culture, ideas and knowledge.


More about the exact implications of the Brexit vote and updates on the negotiations as they unravel can be found on Universities UK’s website.

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