Number of EU Students at UK Universities Halves After Brexit, Non-EU Students Increase

While the number of EU students at UK universities has halved since Brexit, the number of students coming from non-EU countries has increased, according to the University of East Anglia’s Vice-Chancellor David Richardson.

Richardson told BBC News that the number of EU students dropped by 50 percent this year, whereas non-EU student numbers were almost the same compared to the period before the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak.

Universities have announced tuition fees as of August this year, which in some cases reached £40,000 annually. Differently, when the United Kingdom was part of the EU, students coming from other member countries were charged up to £9,250 a year, the same as domestic students.

At Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), the number of EU students decreased from 503 last year to 350 in 2021. On the other hand, the number of non-EU students increased from 1,764 to 2,050 within these two years.

“We have seen a very significant decline of students joining us from the EU, as we anticipated, due to Brexit. But we have had several years of quite significant growth of international students from outside the EU and that… has more than offset the decline in EU students,” ARU’s vice-chancellor Roderick Watkins told BBC. 

According to the latest report “costs and benefits of international higher education students to the UK economy” by Universities UK International (UUKi) and the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), the UK’s international students contribute £28.8 billion to the country’s economy yearly. The analysis indicated that the international students’ contribution to the UK economy during the 2018/19 academic year in Sheffield Central was £290m.

It further revealed that other constituencies where international students contributed the most include:

  • Nottingham South (£261m)
  • Holborn and St Pancras (£243m)
  • Newcastle upon Tyne East (£240m)
  • East Ham (£217m)
  • Cambridge (£214m)

“There are constituencies from across almost all UK regions represented on the top20 list, with international students in Manchester Central (North West) contributing £211m (£1,570); Oxford East (South East) contributing £211m (£1,740); Birmingham Ladywood (West Midlands) contributing £183m (£1,450); Cardiff Central (Wales) contributing £181m (£2,050); Bristol West (South West) contributing £175m (£1,400); and Glasgow Central (Scotland) contributing £171m (£1,880),” the report notes.

According to figures by Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), a UK-based organization with the main focus on the application process for British universities, EU student applications decreased by 43 percent in the national level, from 49,650 in 2020 to 28,400 in 2021. Differently, non-EU student applications increased by 14 percent over the same period.

HESA statistics have pointed out that 538,615 international students pursued higher education in the United Kingdom in 2019/20, with 142,985 EU students and 395,630 non-EU. 

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