Brexit: Less Impact Than Expected

International students are still applying at graduate business programs in the U.K.

Has the Brexit vote had a negative impact on the number of international students interested in studying in the United Kingdom? Many industry observers expected that to be the case, assuming that Brexit would restrict or complicate the student visa process and weaken international candidates’ post-graduation job prospects in the U.K. However, new data from the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) shows that Brexit might not be so problematic after all. The survey was conducted in December 2018 with non-U.K. citizens who took GMAC’s Graduate Management Admission Test and had their scores sent to U.K. business programs.

Fifty-four percent of respondents globally say Brexit has no impact on their decision to study in the U.K., up from 46 percent in December 2016. In addition, there has been an increase in the number of candidates who select the U.K. as their first-choice country for studying business; that increase is particularly strong among students from the Asia-Pacific countries and test-takers with total scores of 600 and above. Their consideration of the U.K. is driven by the reputation of the country’s educational system, their desire to develop an international network, and their hope of achieving an international career. They make their ultimate choices because they want to study at a specific program or school.

However, some candidates are hesitating to choose the U.K. because of the uncertainty caused by the looming exit from the European Union. Fifty-one percent of non-U.K. Europeans say they are less likely to study in that country because of Brexit, which they believe will detrimentally affect the availability of student visas, the availability of work visas, and the cost of living.

GMAC officials note that, as there is continued uncertainty about how Brexit will proceed, it’s not clear how international student mobility will be affected if the U.K. actually leaves the E.U. The organization plans to continue conducting research on this topic and will post results on GMAC's Market Intelligence and Research page.