More universities across the UK are offering buy-one-get-one-free deals on degrees, as well as other perks, in an attempt to entice students amidst post-Brexit uncertainty related to future attendance figures.
Some universities are offering a free MBA course if students register with them to undertake a Bachelor’s degree. De Montfort University in Leicester has gone as far as offering football tickets to go see the reigning Premier League champions, whilst others have offered free iPads and airport transfers.
The offers have been likened in the Sunday Times to supermarket deals, with the offers by the UK’s “gleaming spires of academia” compared to the types of promotions usually reserved for frozen fish sticks at the local Aldi.
The Guardian ran a piece mocking the news, with its satirical article, with tongue firmly in cheek, employing the tone of a secondhand car salesman:
“Enrol for an undergraduate course with me today and I’ll give you a free – YES, FREE! – master’s course worth an incredible £10,000!”
The University of Sheffield, a top 100 university in the world rankings and part of the elite Russell Group, is amongst the list of institutions offering incentives to prospective students — a list that also includes well regarded universities such as York University and London’s Kingston University.
The Sunday Times has reported that some universities are even giving discounts for students who can convince a sibling or partner to sign up to a course.
Jeremy Cooper, managing director of Hobsons, a student recruitment consultancy, has said that universities in the UK are facing “a period of uncertainty” post-Brexit. Sir Steve Smith, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Exeter, has also elaborated on the current atmosphere of uncertainty by saying:
“People are nervous and universities are being defensive; if EU students do not turn up, universities want to make sure they fill their places. There is a lot of uncertainty post-Brexit. Students will have a lot of choice this summer.”
According to The Independent, Aberystwyth University in Wales has reported that around 100 EU students have cancelled their places over concerns of the impact of Brexit. A survey by Hobsons, meanwhile, found that a third of international students said they were not likely to come to the UK anymore.
The news also comes in the wake of reports that some of the UK’s top universities are facing issues working with their European partners. Amongst the problems that have arisen are representatives from UK universities being asked to leave EU-funded projects since the referendum took place.
However, as reported by The Independent, the deals are not only being offered amidst concerns over Brexit, but also with a view to reversing a rapid decline in the number of younger students – boys in particular — applying for university courses this year.
Mary Curnock Cook, chief executive of UCAS, the universities admissions service, has also steered away from stating that these are purely Brexit-related measures taken by universities by focusing on the desire of top universities to acquire the highest-performing students:
“The fact that the number of UK 18-year-olds is smaller this year means talented students are in demand.”
The Telegraph, in the same vein, also noted that the cap on how many students that universities can enrol has been lifted, and the offers may also be a bid to capture as many students as possible.
However, whatever the real motive for these new offers, the Guardian piece, though tongue in cheek in its presentation, is very much an indictment of the commercialization of universities, concluding that “education is not simply a monetary transaction.”