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EU special: International students cast net wider during Brexit wait

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UK faces tougher competition, but numbers are up this year, Federica Tedeschi writes.

EU and overseas students planning to attend university in the UK are checking out alternative countries for study in case their plans are affected by Brexit, a leading analyst has said.

But the number of students considering UK universities is not declining, Carmen Neghina, head of intelligence at international education hub StudyPortals told the EL Gazette.

In fact, new data released by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service shows that the number of non-EU and EU students applying to UK universities and colleges this year has increased by 8 per cent and 2 per cent respectively. This is the final year that EU nationals are guaranteed to have their fees held at lower rates than international students.

‘The UK is still a strong international study destination – it’s just receiving more competition from other countries than ever,’ added Ms Neghina. She stressed there are more students expressing an interest in studying abroad each year on the StudyPortals website, and the absolute number of students considering the UK is stable.

But the UK is showing a smaller rate of increase in interest in comparison to that of European countries such as Germany or the Netherlands.

The attractiveness of these two countries lies in the number of undergraduate and masters degrees taught entirely in English, coupled with lower or no tuition fees.

Ms Neghina said that her platform attracts more prospective international students looking for advice on studying abroad every year, with an average growth rate of over 65 per cent. ‘We also know that we played a role in guiding at least 370,000 students currently pursuing a degree to find and choose the best-fit study programme,’ she added.

In 2016, 132,000 student migrants came to the UK to study for at least a year, according to the International Passenger Survey (IPS).

Further data released by the IPS shows that 195,000 student visas were issued during the same year. Meanwhile, 78 per cent of 3,400 EU students surveyed by QS Enrolment Solutions expressed an interest in studying at a branch campus of a British university, possibly in an EU country other than their own.

However, it is early days to tell whether and how Brexit will affect universities in the UK.

Ms Neghina said: ‘The most likely scenario, though, is that universities with a strong brand name and high rankings will not be as impacted – however universities that are not necessarily top of mind or outside the Russell Group might see their numbers affected more by Brexit.’