Streeting – Minister admits Government’s Brexit policy to blame for fall in student numbers

Brexit and the “uncertainty” of the Government’s position on the issue is to blame for falling numbers of overseas students coming to study at British universities, a Government minister has admitted.

On the BBC today, Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood said, after being challenged about falling student numbers, that “there is a concern with the number of overseas students coming here that have been, perhaps, concerned about where things are with Brexit.”

He also said “the reason why they’ve dropped down is actually to do with the uncertainty with our position on Brexit.”

The latest figures from UCAS show that the number of EU students planning to study in the UK has fallen by 5% in a year.

Commenting, Wes Streeting MP, leading supporter of Open Britain and former President of the National Union of Students, said:

“The Minister has let the cat out of the bag. Brexit and the Government’s uncertain handling of it is causing the number of young people from Europe coming to study in British universities to plummet.

“EU nationals studying here are an unambiguous good for our country. Their knowledge and drive has helped turn many of our universities into powerhouses of innovation, and they pump billions of pounds into our economy each year. 

“Tobias Ellwood should be commended for his honesty, but he now needs to get his Government colleagues to actually do something about it. Universities and potential students alike need certainty that we will not undergo a hard Brexit that takes us out of vital EU programmes like Erasmus.

“And the Government should signal a welcoming attitude to European students by dropping their absurd and damaging target of cutting net migration to the ‘tens of thousands’.” 

/ends

Notes to editors:

The latest UCAS figures on university applications are here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-40581643

According to research by Universities UK, international students are worth £25bn a year to the UK economy and support over 200,000 jobs in university towns and cities across the country: http://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/news/Pages/International-students-now-worth-25-billion-to-UK-economy---new-research.aspx

Transcript, taken from Daily Politics, 19/07/2017:

Andrew Neil: The Government has said that despite £9,000 a year fee regime, university applications haven’t been affected, they’ve been rising. But not this year. They’re down 5%. That sense of the accumulated debt seems to be taking its toll.

Tobias Ellwood: Well you need to look in more detail at those numbers. I think the reason why they’ve dropped down is actually to do with the uncertainty with our position on, on Brexit as well…

Andrew Neil: They’re down 6% in England, where there are fees. But 2% in Scotland, where there are no fees. 7% in Wales, where there are fees. So clearly fees are playing some, may not be the whole story, but they’re a big part of it.

Sarah Champion: 18% for mature students down.

Tobias Ellwood: Of course there is. But as I say there is a concern with the number of overseas students coming here that have been, perhaps, concerned about where things are with Brexit. Again, this is why Damian Green has called for debate on this matter.