University groups have urged UK institutions to increase contact with students in the European Union to ensure they are aware of the country’s entire international education offer.
Speaking at an International Admissions and Recruiting event in London on May 13, recruitment specialists said that UK institutions should view Europe in a new light in light of Brexit and the loss of home fee status and access to UK loans for EU students.
Nancy Cooke, associate director of International Development at the University of Salford, said at an event organised by Cambridge Assessment and Ecctis that the graduate visa path is “not really appreciated in the European context.”
“How can we as institutions actually explain to students what we have to offer?” she wondered. “When I worked in international, we had a terrific scholarship programme for overseas students.” I don’t believe we did a good job of expressing that to European students.”
She said that institutions should focus on three areas to continue to succeed in Europe after Brexit. Along with employment and financing prospects, colleges should collaborate with their local communities to strengthen ties with the continent.
Former UK universities minister Chris Skidmore has also urged for regional international education agendas to be developed in collaboration with regional education champions. On May 12, he made the remarks during an event to reinvigorate attempts to develop a “brand London” for international education.
Nancy noted that institutions might strengthen their links in Europe by collaborating with regional partners.
“For example, in Greater Manchester, we are quite fortunate. We have joint authority, and we have a mayor who is very interested in international and European connections. We have a sort of worldwide strategy for our region, which actually offers up more opportunities,” she explained.
Greater Manchester and Metropole Ruhr, part of North Rhine-Westphalia, inked a strategic agreement in September 2021 to increase business, trade, cultural, and educational ties. “Youth mobility is also incredibly important in that [accord],” Cooke remarked.
Speakers also stressed the need of viewing Europe as a collection of small areas rather than a single enormous market.
“Thinking about countries rather than Europe as a whole is very crucial,” said Roshan Walkerley, deputy head of student recruiting (international) at the University of Cambridge. The institution has done well in Ireland and Portugal, but “certain other markets have been really hard.” Irish students can still pay their tuition at home.
Success has also varied between study levels, according to him. “We are especially concerned at the Ph.D. level — that is one of the few areas where we hope to see some increase.”
“The United Kingdom is absolutely soaring right now.” “I believe we can take tremendous satisfaction in what we have to offer as institutions, including in Europe,” Coventry University’s Justin Wood said.
Following the UK’s EU referendum in 2016, Coventry acknowledged that it would “never have the same level of fee money and volume from Europe,” according to Wood. To combat the decline, the institution was “very motivated to give as many undergraduate European students as possible opportunity to study” and started on “extremely aggressive expansion” in five countries: Portugal, Romania, Lithuania, Poland, and Bulgaria.
As a result, the university now has a “vast pool of students” who can serve as the best ambassadors. “I believe that is a UK story.” “If I could take one thing away, it would be to truly utilise your alumni and existing student body and celebrate your European presence,” Wood said.
Coventry leveraged and expanded its London campus and offerings, as well as its Poland site, to keep EU students interested, he said. The site in Wrocaw has enabled the institution to link with Poland’s industrial base. “Unexpectedly, it has also put us in a pretty strong position to respond to the issue in Ukraine,” he continued.
“[London] is a global city with genuine appeal,” he remarked. “We also used data and analytics to figure out where Coventry fits… and recognise where [we] are valued and distinct.”
“It was also about understanding areas where maybe colleagues in RG universities aren’t able to meet the needs of students in areas like hospitality, leisure and sports, some STEM subjects where that really practical hands-on vocational focus and links with industry can help give them something different.”
Institutions are also looking outside of Europe for international students, although the continent “certainly has a role” to play in diversity initiatives.
“I’m incredibly proud of how much I’ve matured in the previous three years,” Wood added. “But we all know where that growth is coming from,” he continued, referring to non-EU countries like India and China.
“The diversity agenda is incredibly important, and that’s why the EU is really vital,” Cooke said. “If there’s a drop in numbers, you want to do more work to raise that up.”
Abitur and French Baccalaureate holders are “extremely appealing” to Cambridge universities, according to Walkerley. Collaboration to demonstrate “the richness and diversity” of the UK offering is critical, he says, especially when visiting international schools.
“We know that international schools are visiting and hearing from us and universities in the United States, Canada, Australia, and elsewhere.” Individual institution visits are quite difficult to arrange.”
Cambridge was one of ten universities that travelled to overseas schools in March, he added. Institutions, on the other hand, are eager to expand into new areas.
“As our European numbers fall… on the postgraduate side, for example, we’re beginning to work more in Latin America, which was not a place we were really engaged in until approximately 18 months ago,” Walkerley explained.
He went on to say that highly selective colleges like Cambridge are experiencing a renewed “genuine competition for places.”
“We are focusing on broadening engagement and boosting our proportion of UK state school kids.” All of this is in addition to the rising demand for overseas students. That would be a significant issue for many top universities, in my opinion. Those who do not have the capacity to grow in the coming years will be interested to see how the balance between the UK and the worldwide student agenda plays out.”
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