WHILE many Britons are mourning the U.K.’s imminent exit from the European Union, international students are celebrating the weaker pound which has led to lower tuition fees and cheaper living costs. The result could be the arrival of more non-EU students to the U.K., even as the country may be less attractive as a study destination for EU students in the long term.
The U.K. is a popular study destination for Asian countries like China, India and Malaysia, which send a good chunk of their international students to the U.K. to pursue degrees like business, law and medicine. For these students, the aftermath of the Brexit presents the possibility of a much more affordable U.K. university education.
Even before the Brexit vote, China had a staggering number of students in the U.K. In 2014-2015, there were 89,540 Chinese students in the U.K., according to a report released by the U.K. Higher Education International Unit. As the report noted, “[m]ore than 1 in 5 non-UK students and 1 in 3 non-EU students studying in the U.K. were from China in 2014-15.”
Chinese media carried reports of students cheering lower tuition fees and going on shopping sprees in the U.K., and on U.K. shopping websites.
“My tuition fees are about £15,000 and my accommodation fees for the year are about £5,500, which would have been worth 198,850 yuan before Brexit,” student Qu Xinyi said, according to the Global Times.
“But now I only need to pay about 180,400 yuan – around 20,000 yuan less.”
According to QS Top Universities, an international undergraduate student in the U.K. pays an average of £11,987 per year for tuition. This works out presently to ¥106,058. But right before the Brexit pound plunge, that figure was about ¥118,296. This means Chinese students could save an average of ¥12,238 per year – a not insubstantial sum.
Malaysian students also stand to benefit from the weak pound. In 2014-2015, there were 17,060 of them studying in the Britain, according to the U.K. HE International Unit report. Right now, they would pay an average of RM63,498 per year, compared to about RM71,074 before the pound plunged – a potential saving of RM7,576 per year.
The story is the same across the Asian region. Thai students would currently pay an average of ฿557,215 per year for tuition, compared to ฿627,561 before – a difference of ฿70,346. Vietnamese students would pay an average of ₫354,694,825 now, compared to ₫401,256,809 – saving ₫46,561,984.
There is no question that U.K. education is now cheaper for Asian students. Whether it is cheap enough to offset the expected loss of EU students remains to be seen.