Monday 4 July 2016

About those hordes of EU university students...

Oh dear, there's yet more fudgy Brexit reporting from our local newspaper The Sentinel. This is turning into a regrettable trend at the newspaper — "how might we be affected by Brexit?" articles that are subtly slanted against Brexit...

"In 2015, Keele, Staffordshire and Manchester Metropolitan [MMU, which has a campus at Crewe] universities [together] accepted 315 EU students onto degree courses, who came from outside the UK."

Woah! Over 300 per year! Big, scary number! But it's very misleading of the journalist to include all of MMU's students in Central Manchester. Only a few of MMU's students are actually out on its small Cheshire campus, which is located just over the Staffordshire/Cheshire border near Crewe.

How many are there at the Crewe campus, anyway? Difficult to discover, but I see that the campus allotted only a mere 90 minutes in September 2015 to enrol and register all of its overseas students. The MMU followed this enrolment with an Irish Ceilidh dance, suggesting that most of the new overseas undergraduates were actually from Ireland.

What happens when one looks at just Staffordshire University and Keele University? Well, in February 2016 the very same reporter at The Sentinel newspaper reported that at...

"Keele and Staffordshire [universities], relatively few [applicants from overseas in 2015] were offered undergraduate places. Between them, they accepted 70 EU students from outside the UK and 230 'international' students."

So... just 70 EU students per year. Hardly enough to fill two classrooms.

Consider also that these were accepted students. But how many actually arrived in the UK to take up their place? How many dropped out and went home for good (as many students do) at the end of the first year of their degree?

My guesstimate would thus be a rolling total cohort of around 190 EU undergraduates across Staffordshire University / Keele University / MMU at Crewe, across all three years of their degrees. Probably about 100 of those are from Ireland.

But these EU students will still be able to come here after Brexit, as will those studying for a Masters or a PhD. If current arrangements don't suit then we'll set up some kind of arrangement for them, alongside the new international trade deals. For half of them, we may not even need to do that — on current trends Ireland may well be back in the UK soon after 2020.

If anything, it's possible that Brexit may stimulate overseas students applying for places at Staffordshire University and Keele, something which seems to be sorely needed. Especially if students know that they may be offered a ten-year UK work visa if they get a good 2:1 or 1st class degree classification (we'll need the workers circa 2020, as the UK moves onwards and upwards from being the fifth largest economy in the world). The UK's new trade deals, with other booming places around the world, may also run alongside educational aid. Aid that will allow our universities access to a whole new cohort of overseas students.

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