Question Teresa Education

The impact of Brexit on Higher Education

In what ways might UK higher education be impacted upon by the Brexit proposals to leave the EU?

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Answer Expert #26888

The 2016 referendum to leave the European Union and the subsequent confirmation that Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty – which governs the procedures by which a member state might unilaterally withdraw from the EU – will be triggered by April 2017 has caused uncertainty across much of UK civil society, and not least within education (Eurostep, 2016). This is particularly felt in higher education circles, where EU students represent a significant income stream for universities; EU students account for 5% of UK higher education learners, and the proportion of EU students is increasing at a rate higher than that of domestic UK students (Weale, 2017). Recent governmental assurances on the maintenance of EU student funding availability notwithstanding, the prospect of a UK independent from mainland Europe raises a number of questions for educationalists.
There is the question of the continued free movement of students to and from mainland Europe; schemes such as the Erasmus exchange student mechanism are under threat as far as UK access is concerned. The rhetoric on migration has, to some extent, been conflated with that of overseas students into the UK, and the perception that the UK is a less welcoming place in the short or longer term for undergraduates may well be a disincentive to those considering studying in the country post-Brexit (Weale, 2016). EU membership affords UK students access to European institutions at preferential rates to those from no-EU countries; this is under threat when EU membership is withdrawn. The limits placed on UK students considering studying overseas restricts growth and choice, as well as inhibits links between the UK and the European mainland (BBC Active, 2016). However, there may be additional opportunities for students beyond the EU, as well as the potential at least for more straightforward migration to the UK for educational reasons under the proposed point-based immigration system (BBC Active, 2016). The uncertainty in the short term is a significant issue to be tackled, and there will need to be concerted effort at the level of both individual HE providers and the UK government to ensure that the UK remains an attractive proposition for potential students and lecturers alike.

References

BBC Active (2010) Effect of Brexit on education. Available at: http://www.bbcactive.com/BBCActiveIdeasandResources/ImpactofBrexitonFurtherEducation.aspx (Accessed: 12 October 2016).
Eurostep (2016) Article 50. Available at: http://www.lisbon-treaty.org/wcm/the-lisbon-treaty/treaty-on-European-union-and-comments/title-6-final-provisions/137-article-50.html (Accessed: 12 October 2016).
Weale, S. (2016) EU student funding in UK to remain same in 2017 despite Brexit vote. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/oct/11/eu-student-funding-in-uk-to-remain-same-in-2017-despite-brexit-vote (Accessed: 12 October 2016).