Britain to Double Tuition Fees and Lose 120,000 EU Students After Brexit
United Kingdom universities could suffer a 25% drop in international students as a result of the government decision to end home student status for them in England, according to a new survey.
Some 84% of prospective European Union (EU) students say they will ‘definitely not’ study in the UK if the decision means their tuition fees will be doubled.
In addition, 56% of prospective students say they will be affected by the removal of access to student loans, which was also announced.
The Netherlands and Germany could benefit as the most popular alternative destinations if UK fees become unaffordable.
The survey followed the 23 June decision by the UK government to end home fee status for EU, other European Economic Area (EEA) and Swiss nationals following Brexit.
The change applies to students commencing academic courses in England from August 2021 and means they may no longer be charged the same tuition rates as domestic students.
120,000 students Less
The findings of the survey carried out by study choice platform Study.eu could mean a loss of 120,000 students based on recent enrolments, equivalent to 25% of all non-UK students.
The finding echoes a warning from the Higher Education Policy Institute last week that without making financial support available, the switch from home student status risks causing a steep decline in EU students studying at UK universities.
Gerrit Bruno Blöss, CEO of Study.eu, commenting on the survey findings, said: “This is a lose-lose situation for everyone. It is unfortunate that the political process leads to such negative consequences for students and universities. We hope that some other solution can be found that would promote student mobility between the UK and the EU.
“Beyond the already shocking numbers, British universities have to consider potential domino effects. Less diverse campuses might overall be less appealing to international students, regardless of fees charged.”
UK and EU nationals currently pay tuition fees of up to £9,250 (€10,200 or US$11,500) per year for an undergraduate degree. The fees for international students vary from between £10,000 (€11,000) and £38,000 (€41,900) depending on the university and the degree.
According to Study.eu, this would effectively mean an average fee increase of around 99%. Current international tuition fees for most university courses are set between 75% and 125% higher than home or EU fees.
The organisation noted that even currently, with parity between fees for home and EU students, UK universities are already the “most expensive in Europe”.
While EU citizens can find tuition-fee-free or substantially cheaper options in many countries across Europe, many continue to flock to the UK for its high reputation.
However, with EU students charged higher amounts in the UK, it is expected that outbound British students will also be faced with higher tuition fees in countries like the Netherlands, Sweden or Finland.
The survey asked students to rate how likely they would be to continue with their plans to study in the UK if fees were to rise by 10%, 25%, 50% or 100% or more; the latter serving as a proxy for the average fee premium charged from international students.
At a 100% increase, 84% said they would “definitely not study in the UK”; only 1% said they would be unaffected by such fees, while 15% said they would be “less” or “much less likely” to study in the United Kingdom. At a 50% fee increase, still 61% said they would “definitely not” study in the UK, while 38% called it “less” or “much less likely”.
According to Study.eu, in recent years, continental European universities have been increasing the number of English-taught courses, and more so since the Brexit referendum in 2016.
UK maybe will become too expensive
Some 49% of surveyed students said that, with the UK potentially becoming too expensive, they would consider studying in the Netherlands, long a frontrunner for university internationalisation, according to Study.eu. Other popular alternatives include the mostly tuition-fee-free Germany (36% of respondents), France (19%), Ireland (16%) and Sweden (14%).
Higher-fee destinations such as the United States, Canada or Australia were only seen by few as alternatives.
Universities in the UK largely rely for revenue on tuition fees charged from international students. The potential loss of earnings from EU students will follow an already critical situation, with the coronavirus pandemic seriously impeding international recruitment. Many universities will be forced to react in the coming months and years, Study.eu said.
“We will see a range of reactions,” Blöss said. “Most universities have been overhauling their marketing and recruitment campaigns for a while. After all, the announcement did not come unexpectedly.”
He said universities may shift focus to more affluent origin countries. “At the same time, some are planning to open satellite campuses in continental Europe, to offer degree programmes in transnational education settings. A few institutions are also evaluating potential legal loopholes to charge different fees.”
The survey was conducted from 23 to 28 June 2020 among 2,505 respondents who are nationals of the EU and indicated plans to study in the UK to obtain a bachelor or masters degree, in a sample representative of nationalities and study levels of EU students in the UK as of 2018-19.
Blöss said: “Britain’s universities have a lot to offer, but they are facing strong competition on the continent. If they want to continue to attract students from the EU, they will need to communicate their excellent value proposition and make it clear that EU students are still welcome.”