Global Ed in the UK Post-Brexit

Global Ed

The UK’s withdrawal from the European Union (EU) has led to monumental policy changes in the country. While the UK officially left the EU on January 31, 2020, its people had voted in favour of leaving the EU in 2016. Since then various discussions and negotiations on different issues concerning the exit, commonly called Brexit, have taken place. Many sectors have been affected by Britain’s withdrawal from the EU—foreign as well as security policies, trade, travel, and financial services are some of them. Adapting to the changes, the UK has revamped or changed many of its policies, which has had immediate implications for several stakeholders. Meanwhile, the effect on existing and aspiring foreign students is certainly on the cards.

For international students, the situation has changed significantly. Students from EU member countries will now face different visa, travel, and employment restrictions, as their freedom to work and study in the UK would cease. However, Brexit is slated to benefit the student community from India and other Asian countries, who study or aspire to study in the UK. Post-Brexit UK’s immigration policy is also bound to change. As the changes unfold, it becomes important to look into the new situation that the international student community will find itself in.

Global ed in the UK

The UK has remained an unchallenged leader in global education and a preferred destination for international students from around the world. While Oxford and Cambridge universities are well regarded not only for imparting quality education but also for their rich student culture, there are many other renowned universities in the country.  London alone is home to more than 40 institutions of higher learning, while there are over 150 universities across the UK. According to Times Higher Education’s latest World University Rankings, among the top ten universities in the world, three universities are from the UK including the University of Oxford, which currently ranks at the top.

The UK has the second-highest number of international students in the world, closely tailing the US. According to government data more than 250, 000 foreign students come to the UK every year in pursuit of global education. The number is considerably higher than any other European country. Though there are several well-known universities and institutions of higher learning in other parts of Europe, foreign students prefer the UK for many reasons. Compared to other European countries, the UK especially England has always held sway as it is an English-speaking country and provides excellent employment opportunities along with remarkable residing conditions. Moreover, the constant need for a workforce in metropolitan cities and commercial hubs like London, Manchester, and Birmingham have generated jobs for foreign students graduating from the universities in the UK.

However, since 2012 owing to the change in UK’s visa and immigration policies the situation had altered for foreign students. Under the guidance of the then Home Secretary Theresa May, the UK abolished the post-study work visa for international students. The move discouraged students from joining UK-based universities to pursue higher education. With the intention of checking immigration, the government took the decision, which resulted in a significant decrease in the number of international students. Students from Asian countries like India and China that constitute the highest number of international students in the UK particularly bore the brunt of the post-study visa denial. Following Brexit, the immigration policy has been changed by the government and the old rule that denied post-study visas to foreign students has been scrapped.

UK for aspiring students post-Brexit

Citing Universities and Colleges Admissions Service data, the Guardian argues that in 2020 there was a 9% surge in the number of incoming undergraduate foreign students in the UK. This increase comes at a time when the world is dealing with the effects of a pandemic and has suffered a tremendous economic impact. While former US President Trump’s education and immigration policies made many foreign students look towards the UK in place of the US, London’s policies following the Brexit are also responsible for increasing the international student community’s interest in the UK. Brexit has ended the free movement of European passport holders within the UK, making it necessary for them to obtain visas to work and study. Moreover, it has been further clarified in UK parliament that EU students who begin their courses in 2021-22 will not be granted a fee reduction and financial support that was previously available. As similar sponsorship and visas would be required for all aspirants to work and study, Indians and students from other nationalities would now get equal opportunities in the UK. Skill would be given preference in place of the geographical origin of the applicant.

Non-EU students currently enrolled in UK universities as well as aspiring students who secure admissions will be able to reap the benefits of the government’s new policies. One of the most significant advantages that the students would get is access to the ‘Graduate Route’, which is similar to the pre- 2012 post-study work visa. The new rule would allow the students graduating from UK universities a two years unsponsored stay in the UK after completing their graduate studies, or three years on the completion of a Ph.D. This rule is set to brighten the career prospects of international students, as the time would grant them an opportunity to secure a skilled worker visa, which was not previously available. The international students who are currently studying in the UK would also be able to apply for the graduate route. Indian origin students as well as professionals from IT, healthcare, legal and R&D sectors are bound to benefit from the post-Brexit rules as salary threshold and removal of the annual cap would also accompany the new rules.

The road ahead

The effect of post-Brexit policies would be different on students from EU member and non-EU member states.  While the changes might encourage the EU students to chose the universities in their own countries, students from India, China, and other non-EU countries would be encouraged to study and work in the UK. In all, for professionals and students, the new changes would be beneficial as a level playing field would now be offered.

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