In June 2016, the British public will vote on whether to leave or remain in the European Union (EU). Currently, the news is focusing on issues such as immigration, trade and legislative powers, however the EU also has a significant effect on universities and students.
Leaving the EU would be difficult for British universities, as it would cost tens of millions of pounds in funding and leave prestigious UK institutions struggling to compete on the worldwide scale.
Furthermore, British students benefit from EU freedom of movement rules, which allow easier immigration to other European countries; simplifying the process of studying abroad for both British and EU students. More than 200,000 British students have benefited from the Erasmus scheme, which provides funds for undergraduates to travel to EU countries to study as part of their degree. EU students also make up about 5% of the UK student body (and contribute, according to one recent estimate, £2.7bn to the British economy).
EU nation residents can usually study in other EU nations as ‘home students’. Compared to the fees charged to international students, home fees tend to be lower or non-existent.
According to the Telegraph, huge numbers of staff at British universities come from the EU. Currently, 14 per cent of academic staff are from EU countries, with over 8,000 visiting via various schemes.
Leaving the EU would increase Britain’s influence over its own affairs and lead campaigners claim “Britain could negotiate an ‘amicable divorce’, but retain strong trading links with EU nations.”
Voting out could be beneficial to UK students who are looking to study in Britain. Currently, not every UK student applying to university is able to obtain a place due to the quota system and high demand. A fall in EU students would free up scarce places and give UK students a higher chance of getting onto the course of their choice.
With the voting date approaching, we could see many people debating whether studying and working in Britain is still the best option for them. Don’t forget to vote on 23rd June and please share your opinions with us – we want to know your thoughts.