Leaving the European Union could deter EU students from attending British universities and damage the economy, Remain supporters have said.
Universities UK claims its analysis suggests £3.7 billion is generated by EU students, thought to number around 125,000, adding that it believes their spending on and off campus either supports or has helped create 34,250 full-time equivalent jobs throughout the country. The organisation says its analysis takes into consideration spending including tuition fees, food bills and rent costs.
Jo Johnson, the Universities Minister, said: “It would be reckless to cut ourselves off from the rich sources of EU funding, the access to valuable shared research facilities and the close institutional ties that provide so many opportunities to British students and academics.
“UK students benefit from their ability to study across the EU, while EU students generate billions for the UK economy, support thousands of jobs and enrich university life.”
Dame Julia Goodfellow, Universities UK President and University of Kent Vice-chancellor, added: “Leaving the EU and putting up barriers to work and study makes it more likely that European students and researchers will choose to go elsewhere, strengthening our competitors and weakening the UK’s universities.”
Speaking to The Saint, Stephanie Melnick, Secretary for the University of St Andrews Students for Independence (STAUSFI), said that a “Brexit” and the ensuing restrictions on immigration and trade from EU countries “would be very damaging to the university.”
Ian Donnell, President of the St Andrews Conservative and Unionist Association (STAUCA), National Chair of Conservative Future Scotland (youth wing of the Conservative Party in Scotland) disagrees that EU students would choose not to attend UK universities saying that, “as free tuition would not be mandatory for these students, providing increased funding for University initiatives.”
Going on, Mr Donnell said, “Should we remain in the EU, the same pot of places would continue to be divvied out between Scots and EU Students.”
Ms Melnick disagreed with this assertion, however, and said that as “[EU students] would be bringing in an extra source of revenue, they would likely have to pay international fees, which would discourage and prevent many talented EU citizens from coming to study in St Andrews.”
Isaac Leaver, Chair of Young European Movement St Andrews agrees with Ms Melnick: “it is reasonable to expect a drop in applications from EU students following a Brexit as the incentive of free tuition is revoked.”
He adds that, in agreement with Dame Goodfellow, “some research projects will probably suffer from a fall in funding and the basic logistical challenge in academic staff crossing a new, tougher border.”
Mr Donnell disagrees that EU students contribute significantly to research funding as “under Horizon 2020 the vast majority of that funding is open to ‘associated countries’ such as Israel and Norway, and in the event of a Brexit, reaching such an agreement on research funding would have to be part of the negotiations.”