UK Universities Proceed Cautiously in Wake of Brexit Vote

(Photo: Pixabay, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Pixabay, Creative Commons)

Students hailing from European Union countries who are beginning university in the United Kingdom this year will have their student loans funding honored, according to University Minister Jo Johnson. Those who are already attending will continue to receive support. However, many expect enrollment from the EU to decline drastically.

The EU referendum has caused anxiety among students and universities, which the Student Loans Company has attempted to quell.

Arrangements for those EU students beginning in the fall of 2017 still need to be clarified.

While they were in the EU, students from any member country could pay the same fees as local students, which usually amounts to £9,000 (or ~$12,000) annually.

Scottish universities previously did not charge tuition fees to non-UK EU students, but this may change with the Brexit decision, reports Chris Havergal of the Times Higher Education.

According to Sean Coughlan of the BBC News, Johnson's tweets on the matter read:

UK welcomes EU students.

Current students and this autumn's applicants will continue to receive student finance for duration of their course.

There are approximately 125,000 EU students in the UK, with Germany and France sending the most. However, there are more students from China than from the whole EU put together.

Many have also had questions about the future of EU research funding, especially because the Royal Society reports that the UK is one of the biggest recipients. Between 2007, the UK received €8.8 billion euros (equaling £7.3 billion) and had contributed €5.4 billion euros (or £4.5 billion). However, there are some countries, like Norway and Switzerland, that are not part of the EU but have "associate country" status for EU research projects. They have no say in how research funding is directed, and some believe that the UK will follow in their footsteps.

Others are concerned about the ripple effect that the change may have in higher education in the UK, the EU, and even around the world, wriets Meghan McNulty of the Deseret News. They believe that bowing out of the EU could undermine Britain's position as a leader in science and innovation, as well as limit opportunities for the British populace.

Students who are no longer getting the financial benefits of going to school in Britain may instead go to Canada or the US. A recent survey reports that 47% of the participants believed that UK universities would be less attractive if a Brexit happened. 82% of EU students said it would make the UK less attractive compared with 35% of international students. Michael Arthur, president of University College London, believes that even if students from the EU continue to receive funding, it would be hard to attract students to a country that now seems "rather insular and inward-looking."

An open letter from 103 vice-chancellors of British universities, published in the Independent, read:

The impact of our universities on our local communities and economy should not be underestimated. Every year, universities generate over £73 billion for the U.K. economy — £3.7 billion of which is generated by students from EU countries, while supporting nearly 380,000 jobs. Strong universities benefit the British people — creating employable graduates and cutting-edge research discoveries that improve lives.

Julia Goodfellow, the president of the higher education action group Universities UK, said:

Our first priority will be to convince the U.K. government to take steps to ensure staff and students from EU countries can continue to work and study at British universities and to promote the U.K. as a welcoming destination for the brightest and best minds.

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