In wake of Brexit, the UK higher education sector faces a period of uncertainty. However, international students still represent a significant strategic opportunity for UK universities.

At Hobsons, we conduct an annual survey of almost 44,000 prospective international students. This year we conducted some additional research following the UK’s decisions to leave the European Union. The research, which surveyed over 1,000 prospective international students, gave us valuable insights into what international students think of the UK in wake of Brexit. The full report is available to view here.

Our research found that 43 percent of prospective international students feel that Brexit has affected their decision to study in the UK. Of these students, 83 percent say it has made them less likely to study in the UK.

We were delighted to see this research cited in the Times and the Independent recently, by Neil Carmichael MP, Chair of the Education Select Committee, who wrote that the University and Higher Education sectors “could be pushed off a cliff edge by Brexit.” The Education Committee Chair also warned that a fall in the number of EU and international students choosing to study in the UK as a result of Brexit could cost the economy more than £690m per year.

Earlier this year, the Education Select Committee launched an inquiry into the impact of exiting the EU on higher education. Hobsons, along with 190 individual groups and education representatives, submitted written evidence to the inquiry, where we discussed our research and made a series of recommendations to the Committee that are likely to be published early in the new year.

The results of our survey suggest that Brexit poses significant challenges to the UK’s international student recruitment efforts. However, Brexit also presents opportunities. A weaker Pound means that UK higher education is cheaper for a foreign buyer. On a practical level, there are other ways that UK universities can reassure international students, including providing advice and guidance on the impact of Brexit, increasing scholarship funding, and using existing international students as ambassadors to discuss their positive experiences of the UK being a safe and welcoming country.

Now is the time to listen to international students, review the insights available and establish strategies that fit those who are still interested in coming to the UK...with the right institution. During this period of change, we believe that universities must radically rethink the approach to international recruitment and look forward to continuing to help the Education Select committee with their inquiry.

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