How would leaving the EU affect international students?

Universities are not happy with the prospect of leaving the EU, and the impact it would have on their students.

According to Universities UK, in 2012-2013, 5.5 per cent of students studying in the UK were from EU countries, generating £2.27 billion for the UK economy as well as 19,000 jobs in local communities.

University leaders have warned that leaving the EU could have a real impact on the UK’s ability to attract overseas students, leading not only to a decline in funds, but also to a fall in cultural diversity.


Student Visas

If the UK leaves the EU, it is difficult to guess exactly what this will mean for international students. At the very least, though, international students will need a visa to study in the UK.

Nick Hillman, the Universities Minister said: “Students should no longer be classified as immigrants amid fears the pledge to cut entry rates to the UK will push foreign talent to other countries.”

According to HEPI, its small-scale survey found that almost nine-in-10 Conservative election candidates agreed that international students should not be “automatically allowed to stay here after their studies to work for a time-limited period”.

Possible changes

Changes that are possible, and likely, for international students is that they will no longer be able to travel and study abroad with ease, fees will rise and financial support will decrease.

Tuition fees for both domestic and foreign students have increased drastically in recent years. It seems reasonable to assume that, if the UK leaves the EU, this trend will continue.

Analysts warn that a Brexit could see the pound to euro exchange rate to dip to 1.1750 which equates to EUR/GBP rising to 0.85, making it even harder for international students to live in the UK whilst studying.

Erasmus exchange programme


The Erasmus+ scheme is an EU programme open to education, training, youth and sports organisations. It offers opportunities for UK participants to study, work, volunteer, teach and train in Europe, and the scheme will allocate almost €1bn to the UK over seven years.

It is uncertain what will happen to the programme if Britain decides to leave the EU, but the government will need to juggle the need for EU nationals to pay into the UK’s higher education system.

Around 250,000 people are expected to undertake activities abroad with the programme. In 2013-14, there were 125,300 EU students at UK universities.