Rethinking Europe, post-Brexit

Like many of you, I have been glued to the news doing my best to digest a constant stream of Brexit articles and opinions. And I am sure many of you are thinking; how will my role on a U.S. campus, where I am tasked with thinking strategically about global engagement, change?

Based on my recent reading, I recommend perhaps starting at 30,000 feet, with articles that catalog how Britain’s decision to leave the E.U. will impact campus internationalization. The European Association for International Education (EAIE), often thought of as the “NAFSA of Europe,” provides a clear summary of challenges in research funding, student and scholar mobility consequences. Another similar piece is by WonkHE, describing the “Brexistential threats universities now face.”

For analysis of how the decision might specifically impact admissions, you may want to read Elizabeth Redden on how universities are responding to short-term questions about E.U. students’ ability to fund their studies at U.K. institutions through access to loans, grants, and/or preferred tuition schedules.

Looking for data on student mobility trends? The WonkHE team is on it with a look at E.U. students in the U.K. from 2014-15 using HESA data, noting that E.U. students make up an approximate 5.5% of the total U.K. student population, with 46,230 graduate and 78,435 undergraduate students. HESA, for those like me who might not have known, refers to the Higher Education Statistics Agency that collects, analyzes and disseminates quantitative information about the publicly-funded U.K. higher education sector.

U.S. universities and colleges may want to take particular note that the number of E.U. accepted applicants to U.K. institutions has been increasing rapidly in recent years, some 11% from 2014-2015 according to Ben Jordan, a Senior Policy Executive at UCAS. More intriguing, and strategically significant, are the countries demonstrating the highest growth over this period: Romania (+34%, 2,450 acceptances), Italy (+26%, 2,630 acceptances), Poland (+25%, 1,660 acceptances), Spain (+16%, 1,850 acceptances), and France (+16%, 3,060 acceptances).

Still interested? Phil Baty, editor of THE World University Rankings, recommends that those looking for an in-depth understanding of potential after-shocks may want to read the just-released, 102-page “Scale and Scope of U.K. Higher Education Transnational Education” by HE Global, a joint initiative between U.K.’s HE International Unit and the British Council.

It will possibly be a few months (or years) before we start seeing the real effects of Brexit, but one thing is certain: the uncertainty is here to stay. That said, I would like to conclude with an article by John Walmsley, principal at UWC Atlantic College in South Wales, in which he astutely reminds us that if an educational institution already has a diverse and international student population, recent events can offer “young people the chance to have structured and inclusive debates on the big national and world issues.”

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