Applications to UK universities from EU students are down 7% compared to last year, new figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) show.
UCAS, which serves as a centralized application system for students to apply to UK universities, also reported an overall drop in applications from UK students by 5% compared to the previous year.
This news, based on the number of undergraduate applications for the 15 January deadline, represents a slight improvement from the 15 October deadline (for applications to Oxbridge and medicine courses), when it was reported that EU applications had fallen by 9%.
Since the UK’s Brexit vote in June 2016, there have been widespread concerns that the country will lose out on EU students, with research suggesting that many are deterred by uncertainties surrounding fees, funding, visas and employment opportunities.
Applications down overall
It’s not just EU application numbers that have fallen – applications from within the UK, and from elsewhere in the world, are also lower compared to last year.
Nursing saw the largest fall of any individual subject, following the UK government’s decision to scrap NHS bursaries from autumn 2017. This is worrying news for the country’s nursing sector, which has 24,000 vacancies and has reported a 90% decline in EU nurses coming to the UK since the Brexit vote.
UCAS policy analyst Eleanor Jubb notes that the decline in applications for nursing and related health professions goes a long way to explaining the fall in applications from older applicants (aged 25 and above).
On a more positive note, applications from 18-year-olds applying directly from schools in England have reached another record high. UCAS also reports that applications from young people living in areas least represented in higher education have increased to 22.1%, the highest level recorded.
Why are EU applications to UK universities falling?
The news appears to confirm fears that the UK’s Brexit vote would have a damaging effect on UK universities’ recruitment, despite efforts to reassure EU students on questions about fees, funding and the welcome they can expect to receive.
Today’s statistics reflect a recent report published by Red Brick Research, which found that almost two-thirds of international students considered the UK a less desirable study destination post-Brexit.
Sorana Vieru, vice-president of the National Union of Students, commented that the fall in applicants was “disappointing, but not a surprise”.
“Uncertainty around increases in tuition fees, loss of maintenance grants and the rising costs of living and studying at university are too much of a risk to some potential students,” Vieru said.
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