Modeling kept under wraps by the British government for nearly two years estimates that Brexit could cost the nation’s universities nearly two-thirds of their European Union student enrollment and 63 million pounds ($87 million) in one year, but that the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge will boost their income.
In the wake of Brexit, E.U. students have lost their access to British student loans and will also no longer be subject to the same automatic tuition fee caps as home students -- meaning that they will likely face up-front fees and that universities can charge them the much higher full fees charged to non-E.U. overseas students.
The report for the Department for Education, prepared by London Economics, models the potential impact on British universities’ E.U. undergraduate and postgraduate recruitment from those changes, along with that of E.U. students having the same, limited postgraduation rights to work in Britain as non-E.U. students, and the same restrictions on their rights to bring family to Britain as non-E.U. students.
Last year, the Department of Education refused a Freedom of Information request from Times Higher Education to release the report, saying that “with discussions with the E.U. over our future trading relationship ongoing, there are reasonable grounds to delay publication in this case in order to avoid it affecting our future negotiations.”
The report, originally scheduled for publication in April 2019, has now been published, following the end of the British government’s trade negotiations with the E.U.
The report draws together data on university income and E.U. student numbers to produce data on the amount of money universities gain from that source, and it models the potential future impact on E.U. student demand by looking at the impact that the move from an up-front fee to a loans system in 2006 had on recruitment.
Taking all four changes for E.U. students together, the “estimated combined impact of all of these policy changes would be to reduce tuition fee income from E.U. sources by approximately £62.5 million, with 35,540 (57 percent) fewer first-year E.U. enrolments,” the report concludes.
The report takes into account that while E.U. student demand is likely to fall, universities will be able to offset that by charging higher fees.
But it also makes clear that “the aggregate impact on fee income masks significant variation” across different kinds of universities.
The report uses previous analysis that groups U.K. universities into four “clusters.” According to this prior analysis, “Oxford and Cambridge ‘emerge as an elite tier’ (Cluster 1), with the remaining Russell Group universities essentially undifferentiated from the majority of other pre-1992 universities (Clusters 2 and 3),” but “with around a quarter of post-1992 universities forming a ‘distinctive lower tier’ (Cluster 4),” the report says. (The Russell Group is an organization of research universities.)
The report, which uses various scenarios for how many and which universities are in each cluster, explores how demand is likely to vary across the clusters, in which universities have different levels of E.U. recruitment and different strengths in prestige.
It concludes that universities in Cluster 1 “would benefit in aggregate; whereas institutions in Clusters 2, 3 and 4 would be worse off.”