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Insight & Opinion

Why the UK will still appeal to international students after Brexit

Author: Riccardo





The UK is now technically out of the EU, having taken its leave from the bloc on January 31st 2020. The country is now in a transition period that the government says will be concluded by the end of the year.

Brexit will affect Britain in many ways, some of which are impossible – or at least very difficult – to predict.

One of the key considerations for property investors who are committed to the student market is how the country’s withdrawal from the EU will impact demand for purpose-built student accommodation, particularly from overseas.

Encouragingly, there are a number of factors that suggest demand from international students will remain strong for the foreseeable future.

Positive trends since 2016

It’s true that the road from the June 2016 referendum to the UK’s eventual withdrawal from the EU in January 2020 was a long and tortuous one. However, it’s also true that the world has been aware of the country’s intention to leave the EU for more than three years, and this doesn’t appear to have dented international student interest in attending British universities.

In 2019, the number of EU applicants to UK higher education institutions rose by 1%, to 50,650. International applications from outside the EU increased by 8%, reaching a record high of 81,340, according to UCAS.

Demand from China is particularly strong, with applicant numbers soaring by 30% to 19,760. Chinese applicants now outnumber those from Northern Ireland for the first time.

Clare Marchant, chief executive of UCAS, said the “global appeal of UK higher education has never been clearer”.

Separate research by JLL has shown that the pool of international students looking to study overseas is growing, and the UK has consistently held its position as the second most attractive global destination after the USA.

“The quality of universities is important in attracting that demand to the UK, but so too are other factors including language, cost, political and cultural benefits,” the report authors wrote.

Attractive cities and universities

The latest world university rankings show that the UK is home to three of the world’s top ten universities, and 11 of the top 100.

Furthermore, the country has a strong cultural identity and cities that are famous around the world, offering an array of lifestyle benefits and attractions that add a new dimension to the student experience.

In a city like Liverpool, for example, international students benefit from access to a number of prestigious universities, as well as the opportunity to live in one of the UK’s most exciting and characterful destinations.

Government support

International skills and labour are important to the British economy, so the government is unlikely to take any actions that will discourage fee-paying students and professionals from coming to study and work here, regardless of whether the country is part of the EU.

Evidence of this was provided by last year’s announcement of a new two-year post-study work visa, which aims to help international students begin their careers in the UK after graduating.

Home secretary Priti Patel said: “The new graduate route will mean talented international students, whether in science and maths or technology and engineering, can study in the UK and then gain valuable work experience as they go on to build successful careers.”

These positive indicators of ongoing international student demand could encourage more investors to consider opportunities in the student accommodation sector.

To discuss current prospects and get some one-to-one advice, contact Experience Invest.

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