The Higher Education Policy Institute has predicted that in the aftermath of Brexit a 57% fall in EU students will be partly compensated by14,500 more non-EU students a year. Oxford and Cambridge have also been forecast to make an extra £10m a year in fees, whereas less prestigious higher education institutions will lose out on £100 000 a year. Yet university representatives maintain that a “hard” Brexit could threaten research.
Three of Cambridge’s pro-vice chancellors raised such concerns in submissions to the House of Commons Education Committee. These included the future immigration status for university staff, the reduction in EU applications and the subsequent economic impact if numbers are not made up by non-EU students.
Applications from across the EU have already dropped by 14% for undergraduate courses this year and this trend is likely to continue. The University is now preparing for admissions of EU students to fall by two-thirds after Brexit.
The financial implications and the threat to academia were also demonstrated. The University revealed that in the year to July 2016 over 536 EU nationals received job offers from the University. The cost to the institution of administering employment visas for EU staff would now be around £1.25 million a year.
Possible solutions to these likely changes were outlined by Oxford University’s head of Brexit strategy, Professor Alaistair Buchan, when publicly speaking for the first time to the Education Select Committee.
He said he supported the creation of a so-called “Erasmus Plus Plus”, which would expand the current parameters of the European exchange programme. This would in turn result in a global network of student programmes. The proposal was unanimously backed by a panel of experts.
However, the panel warned the Committee that the impact of a “hard” Brexit is nonetheless worrying. Stricter Visa controls and an end to freedom of movement might jeopardise a tradition of collaborative research, as well as the UK’s future as a global leader in higher education.
Daniel Zeichner, MP for Cambridge, expressed these fears in a recent statement, following Theresa May’s speech outlining her Brexit strategy.
“By admitting that she will take Britain out of the Single Market, she will severely damage places like Cambridge, which rely heavily on students, academics, and workers from the EU as well as broader cooperation with our European partners.”
Meanwhile, Professor Catherine Barnard, Head of EU Law at Cambridge, has advocated a “bespoke” Brexit deal for universities, allowing the free movement of academics.
“We benefit from what they sent to us. We receive more than we send”.
Her other suggestions included relaxing the current Visa immigration quotas for non-EU students.