The mood music is getting louder and a lot more encouraging for British universities.
The cross-party Education Sub-Committee of the House of Commons this week published its report on the UK’s higher education sector, and specifically the impact of Brexit. Concerned about the impact of Brexit on the numbers of EU students coming to study in the UK, the Committee this week calls for a “system closely resembling freedom of movement”, rather than risk losing a share of the lucrative overseas student market. There are 127,000 students from EU countries currently at UK universities – and the report calls for “light-touch controls” after Brexit rather than barriers that would discourage students from applying. This to counter the decline seen this year in EU student enrolments, which at Cambridge amounted to 14%.
The Committee went on to urge the Government to stop counting overseas students in migration figures, quoting an estimate that the UK’s higher education sector was valued at £73 billion annually, supporting 750,000 jobs. The House of Lords meanwhile have submitted an amendment making it difficult for the Government to count students as migrants.
Last Thursday, the London Times reported that Theresa May’s out-going administration is prepared to make a concession on this point (see earlier blog International Education Marketing in a Trumpian, post-Brexit world.) Interestingly, the tabloid but influential SUN newspaper appeared to give the government a possible way out of saving face with an editorial last week that said “we don’t believe people think of genuine foreign students as immigrants”, and that “much stricter checks, post-Brexit, to ensure they leave when their course ends would be sufficient good reason for students to be taken out of any future migration target”.
It looks as though sense will prevail. Higher education is one of the UK’s biggest export earners. And with President Trump’s xenophobic tweets and executive orders already having a dramatic effect on reducing Indian applications in the USA, according to the TIMES OF INDIA, there can be no better time to make International students – EU and beyond – feel welcome and valued in the UK.