The Eurozone crisis has created difficulty for massive sections of British residents and businesses, but British universities are unexpectedly thriving. The reason behind it is the increased interest in attending British institutions of higher learning from students abroad. According to Graeme Paton in the Daily Telegraph, high school graduates from countries like Spain, Portugal and Greece are casting their eyes outside their borders when choosing universities, and, increasingly, their eyes are landing on Britain.
This might be bad news for British graduates who will now face stiffer competition for top university spots. Since all students from the European Union are eligible for the same government-backed benefits and loans that are available to students from England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, they might end up filling spaces that instead could have gone to a native student.
The disclosure is revealed in a report by Study Portals, an EU-funded website set up to help young people apply to university courses elsewhere in the continent. According to figures, the number of enquiries made through the website from Greek, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese students has soared by 80,000 in 2012 compared with a year earlier. Demand to study outside their own country is up by more than 180 per cent among Italian students, 162 per cent from Greeks, 157 per cent from Spaniards and 140 per cent from Portuguese students.
The study found an inverse relationship between the strength of the economy in students' home countries and the desire to study and subsequently join the job market abroad. The four countries with the highest growth in the number of graduates looking for a university elsewhere were also the countries with the highest youth unemployment rates in the entire European Union. More than 30% of Portugal's teenagers are unable to find jobs; although daunting, the percentage pales in comparison to Greece, where more than half of young adults find themselves without employment of any kind.
Although Britain isn't the only country that students are considering as a new home, it is by far the most popular option. More than a quarter of the students from the four countries are sending requests for information to various British universities. The next most popular destination is Denmark, with 20% of those looking to relocate and actively seeking information on how to enroll in Danish universities.
The increase in interest from students in those struggling economies is especially noticeable in light of the fact that, overall, interest in British universities from EU students as a whole is down this year.
Last month, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) said that total demand was down by 13 per cent – 6,132 – this year compared with 2011, although the data failed to provide a country-by-country breakdown. This suggests that southern European countries may be bucking the trend.