EU postgraduate research students in UK decreasing rapidly, statistics show

Latest statistics from the Higher Education Statistics Agency showed that the number of young EU researchers in UK decreased after Brexit, says  On the other hand, a data collection from the Rusell Group Universities in UK found that the decline is continuing in the present academic year at a much faster rate.

As of 2017/18, a number of 14,570 EU students were pursuing a postgraduate research degree in UK, sharing this way 31% of the international student population at this academic level. Compared to the 2015/16 academic year when UK universities counted 15,205 young researchers from the EU a drop of 4% is noted.

According to this statistical report, during the last year, the majority of postgraduate students coming from EU were enrolled in English universities. Out of the total number, 11,655 students were studying in England. This was a slight decrease compared to the previous year. During 2016/17, English universities were home to 12,090 EU postgraduate research students.

Scotland was also a recipient of a relatively high number of EU postgraduate research students. During the past year, Scottish universities counted 2,080 EU students attending postgraduate research courses.

Wales and Northern Ireland, on the other hand, shared a significantly lower portion, 485 EU students, respectively, 350 students.

These statistics have proven universities’ concerns for a huge loss of the EU’s student intake after Brexit to be right. In addition to HESA statistics, according to some findings from the Rusell universities, a group of top leading universities in UK, the decline is continuing even in the present academic year with a much faster rate.

Based on their study results, the number of EU students who are pursuing a postgraduate research degree in the 2018/19 year is smaller by 9% compared to the last year. Their report states that although the EU enrollment increased by 1% during 2017/18, the growth was very small compared to the trend in the preceding years.

“The previous academic year, 2017/18, showed marginal growth in overall EU student numbers, at an average of 1%. This contrasts with the healthy growth reported in preceding years: data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) showed growth in the number of EU students enrolling at Russell Group universities was 5%, 4%, 4% and 7% in each consecutive year between 2012/13 and 2016/17.” Reads the Rusell Group universities’ release.

Amid many uncertainties originating from an unclear Brexit process, the UK universities and higher education experts in UK have put pressure in the Government to take a clear and firm stance toward the EU-UK close relationship in research and science, following the departure of their country from the union.

The UK researchers and scientists have lately received support from their German counterparts. A group of top 15 German universities has released a statement on which it demands concrete steps to ensure the future participation of their British higher education partners in European research schemes.

Speaking about this initiative, Jan Wöpking, the managing director of the 15 German universities said that is totally wrong thinking that leaving their British colleagues from joint European research programmes is only harmful to the latter.

“It’s a misunderstanding that the impact of Brexit on UK science wouldn’t be also severe for Germany and other member states. We have such a great number of collaborations and our research gets better when we work together.” Said Wöpking.

Provided that there are no concrete improvements in solving these issues, some universities in both sides are working independently to establish new bilateral agreements which would enable them to cooperate and have access in common funds, even in case of a no-deal Brexit situation.

As it stands, the UK and Germany run most collaboration projects in science and research and accordingly accumulate most EU funds.

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