After Brexit: What’s Changing and What Will Stay the Same

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Editor’s Note: Elisabeth K. Marksteiner serves on International ACAC’s Advocacy and Outreach Committee, where her special interest is Brexit.

Fact: On Friday, Jan. 31, the United Kingdom will leave the European Union.

Fiction: The UK doesn’t want international students.

Fact: International enrollment numbers are at a record high. In fact, the recent introduction of a two-year post-graduation visa makes it an opportune time for students to consider a degree in the UK.

For the majority of students seeking degrees, nothing will change. Degrees remain largely three years in length and specialized. If your students are thinking “out-of-state,” you may also want to encourage them to think “out of country.” The UK will continue to offer high-quality, internationally recognized degrees.

Why then all the trepidation?

If you’re reading this in Europe, and are advising a European national, I expect that’s where there’ll be the most change. To date, EU students in Europe have benefited from the same fee status as “home” nationals. The presumption is that international fees (which vary by course) will be the same for all students. That means some students will probably soon be paying more than they have. There have been some statements issued offering a longer transition (seven years) during which UK students in Europe wanting to return to the UK for degrees will still be assessed “home” fees. But I advise checking for frequent updates on that.

Since talks are just beginning on what happens at the end of the transition period this year, we don’t know for certain what will happen next in 2021. While there have been favorable noises about continuation in the Erasmus+ program (student exchanges), the current arrangements end this year. The UK’s participation in Horizon Europe is not yet agreed. Encourage your students to ask about any reciprocal exchanges the universities have established themselves to ensure those who want an additional study abroad as part of their course will have the opportunity.

Nearly 500,000 students chose to study in the UK, including 20,000 from the USA. Transparent entry criteria based on academic merit (extracurriculars aren’t considered in admission) and lots of pathway programs for students without APs, SAT, IB, etc., mean there are tens of thousands of courses for students to apply to. Yes, the UK has liberal arts degrees too (with a British flavor). And many companies have bases in the UK for those thinking about the post-work visa.

Brexit is a realignment to a global focus. The UK will go from having a favored relationship with the EU to inviting all of the world to partner with us. I may have been a staunch remainer, but the reality is this is a new playing field.

Whatever my personal political views, I believe that a UK education will be fundamentally the same in 2021 as it is in 2020. If you haven’t considered suggesting the UK to your students who are considering options further afield, I’d suggest that now is the ideal time to do so.


NACAC member Elisabeth K. Marksteiner is an independent educational consultant based in Europe.
She served on the executive board of International ACAC from 2016 to 2019.

2 thoughts on “After Brexit: What’s Changing and What Will Stay the Same”

  1. Absolutely agreed Elisabeth. I will not stop positively advising students to come to the UK for their studies, but to be aware of advice that universities are sending and publishing. I don’t envisage much change for 21/22 either but with this government you just never know. Lets keep positive with the Erasmus news and at least the funding guarantee this year. The more positive we are in this industry collectively, the better our support network for our students.

  2. I am a professor at a UK University and regularly participate in admissions procedures for UG programmes. I agree with almost of all of this — and certainly with the bottom line conclusion. UK Universities post-Brexit ARE eager for international students, and there are many outstanding programmes here to choose from.

    One minor correction: It is not true to say that extra-curricular activities play no role in admissions decisions. I am sure that it IS fair to say that that they don’t play anything like the role that they play in US admissions, but applications do include a personal statement, and at my institution we also interview most applicants. As part of the process we are looking for more than simply academic performance, and information about what an applicant does outside of the regular classroom routine can definitely play a role.

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