Analysts say that it will take at least two years before the changes induced by Britain’s decision to leave the European Union will take effect. It is commonly held that once these changes are implemented, UK universities will see a drop in the number of their international enrollees and become more expensive, especially for non-EU citizens such as students from India.
The impact of the UK’s departure on the economy has been noticeable already. The pound entered a free fall the day after the referendum and plummeted to its lowest value since the 1970s, though it has stabilized since. Ironically, as noted by the Economic Times, the decline of the pound has made studying in the UK cheaper than ever, but these students after graduation will have a harder time finding work in the UK because of new, more stringent labor policies. They may be unable to recover the direct cost of their studies, and many expect the pound to recuperate.
Furthermore, if universities find themselves struggling in a few years, whether due to a lack of EU funding or fewer EU citizens deciding to study at UK universities, they may decide to increase their rates for international students to account for the deficit. Any of these changes could, in turn, make UK education much more expensive for Indian students and drive down their enrollment numbers.
According to Gauri Kohli of the Hindu Times, the number of Indian students coming to the UK declined by 53% from 2010-2015, whereas the number of Indian students headed to the United States for study increased. There were about 10,000 Indian students in the UK in 2004-2005, and that number increased to over 20,000 between 2008-2011. However, after austerity policies were adopted to cope with the global recession, that number dropped back under 10,000 after 2011. Still, India was second in terms of non-EU student enrollments in the UK, representing 6% of international students. Indians are the next largest cohort of international students in Britain after Chinese students.
Education analysts believe that the decline of Indian student numbers is the result of policies that did not favor giving students work experience. International students, in order to recoup the considerable money paid for education abroad, often want direct work experience so that they can secure a high-paying job after their studies. Post-recession policies, however, have been making it more difficult for non-EU citizens to stay in the UK, and they will only intensify after Britain leaves the EU. Thus, the decline in Indian students over recent years is expected to accelerate.
Indeed, a report from the website LiveMint shows that the number of Indian students going abroad for higher education studies last year may have fallen for the first time in at least four years. Indians committed $1.98 billion to education-related spending in 2015-2016 as opposed to the $2.47 billion in the previous year. The slowdown is a result of tighter visa, labor, and movement regulations, which will likely become more severe after the UK’s departure from the EU.
For their part, members of Britain’s education sector are urging calm despite the signs that the Brexit could have negative impacts on the country’s education policies. Carly Minsky, the student content editor at Times Higher Education said:
“Do not make any hasty decisions or change your study plans before it is clear what agreement the UK will make with the EU. Aside from the impact on the market, little is expected to change before the two years for negotiation is up. While it is possible that there are big changes ahead with respect to tuition fees, research funding, visa restrictions, work opportunities and free movement across Europe, no one currently knows what form this will take or what the impact will be.”