How Will Brexit Impact International Students in the UK?

Global News and Perspectives

The past few years have seen some significant, if radical, changes in the socio-political landscapes of several countries around the world. With Britain set to leave the European Union this month, the United Kingdom too stands at the cusp of such a change.

Very quickly, for the uninitiated, UK voted to opt out of the European Union (EU) in 2016, of which it had been a member since 1973. Brexit, as the exit is popularly called, was originally meant to come into effect in March 2019. However, that was postponed to 31st October 2019, and again to 31st January 2020. This one, however, is final.

The question to ask now is – what will be the social and political ramifications of Brexit? It’s a debate that is taking place among politicians and leaders from around the world. The topic is also of extreme relevance to students looking to study in the UK. There are uncertainties about the impact it will have on their academic aspirations. Find out more about how brexit will affect international students.

How will Brexit affect international students?

While the exact fallout of Brexit is something no one can predict, what is certain is that the exit of Britain from the EU is not only going to impact students in the UK who want to study in other European countries, but also EU students who wish to pursue their studies in the UK. Before Brexit, travel, work and immigration from the UK to other European countries was relatively simple, as it was part of the freedom of movement rules that applied to EU members. Similarly, the process of studying abroad, for both UK and EU students was also streamlined.

In a post-Brexit world all this is set to change. Travel from the UK will not be as get-up-and-go as it was – paperwork and visas will be needed in many cases. As for students in the UK, they will now face some roadblocks if they plan to pursue studies in any of the EU nations. If these changes will have impact on UK’s reputation as one of the top study destinations in the world remains to be seen. Student’s visa process will now be more complicated, and it will become more difficult for international graduates to secure jobs in the country due to ebb and flow in work visa policies.

That’s not all. There will also be a financial impact. Before Brexit, students coming from any country within the EU paid a lower fee in EU universities as compared to other international students, since they were considered ‘home students’. However, post-Brexit that may well change. Britain’s education ministry has proposed that from 2021, UK would charge EU students similar fee as other international students. This means that EU students would have to pay between £10,000 and £35,000 annually to attend a university in England.

What does Brexit mean for international students? Another setback of Brexit comes to students in the form of reduced scholarships. Post-Brexit, in certain UK universities, getting a scholarship will become next to impossible. Even though UK-based scholarships may not be affected, chances are that EU-based grant opportunities, like Erasmus+ or CAPITAL (Collaborative Capacity Programme on ITS Training-Education and Liaison), may become out-of-bounds for international students.

New Brexit rules for international students - The good news

Given all the changes that have taken place, it would be logical to expect that Brexit would deter international students from choosing UK as an option for Global Ed. Not quite. A study commissioned by the GMAT council found that international students still preferred going to the UK to pursue higher studies (in Business). The reasons are not clear, but one positive change has given international students reason to cheer. A new set of immigration rules drawn by the UK government (said to come into effect from 2021), state that international students will be allowed to stay back in the UK for two years after completing their graduate and postgraduate studies to look for suitable employment. Similarly, for Ph. D. students the stay back period will be extended to one year. This new rule will open up multiple opportunities for students. It will give them the chance to smoothly transition to a skilled work visa, once they find a suitable work opportunity on completion of their courses.

For Indians looking to go to the UK for higher education, especially postgraduate programs, Brexit could actually be a silver lining. With the British government revealing its ambitious immigration plan, underlining the need for skilled professionals in the UK economy, Indians and other migrants from the non-EU regions will largely benefit from such a demand and favorable immigration policies.

It’s wait and watch for now

The UK is once again emerging as a preferred study destination among Indian and other international students. There could be a flip side, but that’s hard to predict at the moment. It’s really a wait-and-watch situation because despite these promising policies, there will be clarity on the future of education in the UK only after Britain officially departs from the EU. As of 11 pm on 31 January (midnight in Brussels), the UK will no longer be a member of the EU. Watch this space for more updates.

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Global News and Perspectives


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