The United States has long been the destination of choice for students from around the globe. Many are drawn by its reputation for quality education, its welcoming culture, and the prospect of transitioning into the labor market after graduation. The International Institute of Education conducted a study* from 2009-2013, and found that 74 % of international prospective students report the U.S. as their top choice, compared to only 8% who prefer the UK.
In light of last month’s Brexit decision, many have speculated that the number of foreign students who choose to study in the UK will decrease, along with research funding and post-graduate job opportunities. The President and Provost of University College London (UCL) predicts a 70-80% drop in EU students after Brexit. While the verifiable effects of Brexit will become clearer after exit negotiations are finalized over the next two years, much uncertainty remains over the future status of EU students enrolled in British universities.
As a high school student considering UK universities, what does Brexit mean for you right now?
For All Students Studying in the UK from Abroad
Russell Group universities, including Cambridge, Oxford, and London School of Economics, received more than half a billion pounds from EU investments in 2014-15. Experts are doubting the future of that funding stream post-Brexit. As EU student numbers in the UK are expected to drop, so is the funding that they bring with them.
The short-term effects of the British Pound plunge will result in an immediate reduction of education expenses, but what can we expect over time? A long-term analysis shows that several wavering factors add up to a much higher cost. This, coupled with the suffering financial health of British universities, which remain heavily subsidized by the government and the post-Brexit split, could result in an increase in tuition fees and other expenses, forcing students and their families to pay more overall for their university education.
The National Union of Students (NUS) agrees:
“UK universities receive a disproportionate share of EU research funding. Brexit, therefore, could mean less funding to universities and less opportunities for postgraduate study if we are no longer able to participate in the European research network…some UK universities have already reported European partners pulling out of joint funding bids due to the uncertainty about the future.”
Research partnerships and faculty exchange between institutions may also decrease, taking a toll on the quality and diversity of talent. Currently 16% of researchers in the UK come from the EU. Some are concerned about the future quality of projects, falling investment in the industry, and borrowing becoming more difficult and expensive for the government and universities alike.
For British Students
Should UK students be concerned about post-graduation employment options in their home nation? This is a complex question influenced by a variety of factors, such as the outcome of the two-year exit negotiations with Brussels, the possibility of a snap general election, and the accompanying outcome of that election. Most experts predict a slowdown in the British economy and possibly a recession. Either scenario would negatively impact job prospects. A recent study conducted before Brexit found that, if the UK votes to leave, the sectors most at risk of downsizing are banking and finance, retail, media, technology, and law.
The National Union of Students (NUS) released a statement regarding Brexit’s effect on the job market:
“If some form of free movement remains, it could be that broadly the same opportunities will exist as now. If not, then much will depend on the visa and immigration rules put in place. In the short term, the British economy has notably weakened – the full picture is still emerging but it would seem recent graduates now face a tougher job market with fewer vacancies.”
For EU Students
The future availability of scholarships for EU nationals is not definite. Each university will have to set its own eligibility rules in wake of Brexit. The possibility remains that EU students may be treated as non-EU international students are now, with no fee cap and no form of student support from any part of the UK. It seems likely that EU students will be paying a higher rate of tuition by the end of Brexit negotiations. While EU students were previously permitted to work in the UK without a work visa, this may no longer be the case in the near future.
For Non-EU Students
Reportedly anti-immigrant undertones of the Brexit decision are exemplified in new immigration policies that will target foreign students. Home Secretary Theresa May is denying foreign further education students the right to work during and after their studies. After graduating, all foreign students will be required to leave the country before applying to return under a work visa. There will no longer be an option to apply for a visa extension when courses finish. Cabinet ministers say the new rules, which will apply to non-EU members, will stop the practice of using colleges as a “back door to a British work visa.”
In response, Mostafa Rafaai, NUS International Students Officer, said it was “the latest in a long line of attacks handed down to international students by the government.”
The length of further education visas has been reduced from three years to two. Further education students will be prevented from extending their visas unless they “demonstrate progress” in their studies.
Studying in United States as an International Student
The number of foreign students attending university in the US has been gradually increasing since the 1950s, and has nearly doubled in the past 10 years, growing from 564,766 total students in the 2005-2006 school year to 974,926 total foreign students in 2014-2015 school year. In a worldwide survey* of prospective university students, over ⅔ of respondents felt that the U.S. is very welcoming to international students. The US provides a generous, long-term nonimmigrant visa for international students, allows for multiple opportunities to work during and after university, offers a 60-day grace period after graduation, and gives an opportunity for certain students to extend their stay for up to 3 years post graduation.
F1 Student Visa Process
Once you have been admitted to a US, you will go through a very simple process to apply for a student visa through your local US Consulate. It is revealing that Hale Education Group has never had a student turned away for an F-1 student visa. Your F-1 visa will last for the duration of your studies. The US offers a convenient and flexible student visa that allows you to travel outside of the US during your studies, as long as you return after an absence of no more than five months.
Working During University in the US
Students with F-1 visas are permitted to work on the campus of the university at which they are studying for up to 20 hours a week. Campus jobs consist of working in the library, in an administrative office, at a university cafe, as a research or lab assistant, in the dormitories, or other places around campus. These jobs are often paid above the local minimum hourly wage, and can help cover the costs of books, housing, and other living expenses.
International students in the United States on an F-1 visa are eligible for 12 months of practical training, a period during which they are authorized to work in a position related to their field of study, while remaining on their student visas. If a student chooses to take part in this “training” during their studies, it is known as Concurrent Practical Training (CPT). CPT can be completed part-time (no more than 20 hours per week) while enrolled at university. Although most students choose to use 12 consecutive months of OPT after completing their studies, it is possible to use OPT in segments throughout your time as a student, as long as the total does not exceed 12 months. A number of our Hale counselors used their CPT to complete summer internships in the US.
Working After University in the US
If a student chooses to take advantage of practical training after graduating, it is known as Optional Practical Training (OPT), which provides F-1 students an opportunity to gain practical work experience in the US, in a field directly related to their program of study. A foreign student is eligible to participate in OPT for a minimum of 12 months per degree. You might use 12 months of OPT after receiving your Bachelor’s degree, and then complete a Master’s program and apply for an additional 12 months of work under OPT. F-1 students with Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) degrees may apply for a 24-month extension of their initial 12-month training period, bringing the duration of the program to 36 months.
After you receive sponsorship from an American company, you can remain in the US for the duration of your employment contract. The US recognizes the valuable contributions made by international students across innovative industries and the wider economy. Accordingly, it makes the path to studying and working in the US an open and inviting one.
*The International Institute of Education (IIE) began conducting the surveys in 2009 in Vietnam and India. This was followed by Brazil, Germany, Hong Kong, Mexico, Nigeria, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey and the United Kingdom in 2010. Surveys were then conducted in Colombia, France, Japan, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and South Korea in 2011, in Nepal in 2012 and in China in 2013. A total of 15,902 valid student responses were received.
Alexandra Newlon is an Educational Consultant at Hale Education Group and a graduate of McGill University and Washington University in St.Louis.