Yesterday 52% of British voters decided that the UK should leave the European Union.  That’s 17.4 million citizens.  For the 16.1 million (48% of) voters who had wanted to stay, Brexit is a disaster, a tragedy.  A 43-year old love-hate marriage has culminated in the announcement of an impending divorce – due to ‘irreconcilable differences’.


 But what does Brexit mean for you as an international student?   I’ve tried to sum up the situation in 12 points.


For now, nothing changes. Not officially, anyway

What Brexit Means for International Students in UK

Yesterday’s vote means the UK will now definitely separate from the EU and go its own way.  But divorce takes time and the UK won’t actually leave the EU until 2018 at the earliest.

If you’re an international student in the UK right now, nothing will change for you – at least, not in terms of your official status.   So no need to panic just yet.

Just to cheer you up:  You now have a story to tell when people ask ‘where were you the day the UK voted to leave?’.  In 40 years’ time you’ll be able to impress your grandchildren by telling them you were there!


Uncertainty is bad for the economy….and for your future

What Brexit Means for International Students in UK

You know what makes financial markets crash?  Uncertainly.  Uncertainty leads to a lack of confidence and when we don’t have confidence we either don’t make decisions, or we opt for the ‘safe’ options.

Brexit has spilt a huge, rotten barrel of uncertainty onto  the paths of talented young people trying to decide which turn to take into their future.  Should they still choose to study in the UK? What will the country be like for international students? Will there be new visa requirements? What about tuition fees and job prospects?

And hey, doesn’t Brexit show that everyone in the UK is basically racist?


Welcome to the Divided Kingdom

Will Brexit Break Up the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom is a divided country.  That’s what newspapers have been telling us for weeks now.  And that’s what the EU Referendum results have shown.   There is a huge divide between the regions: Scotland and Northern Ireland have predominantly voted to stay in the UK – England and Wales have decided we should leave.

The fear now is, will the Union of the UK survive? Or will Scotland hold a new referendum and this time actually decide to split from the UK and marry the EU instead?

There is also a generational divide.  Young people, who were either not allowed to vote or voted in fewer numbers, supported the ‘Remain’ camp.  The older generation has had enough of the EU – and we must now all live with the consequences of their grumpy mood.

Old people voted for Brexit


Brexit is really a vote against immigration

Brexit was a vote against immigration

The ‘Leave’ campaigners have used a number of strong arguments against continued EU membership.  But the one argument that has resonated the strongest with voters is the claim that the EU is responsible for ‘uncontrolled immigration’ into the UK.  The gutter press has played its part in claiming that a tsunami of immigrants from Turkey is about to swamp the country.

So, to the non-European international students sending me private messages on Facebook asking if Brexit will mean good news for them – err, sorry darling, no.  The British people have voted to leave the EU because they want less immigration, not more.

I’ll put it really bluntly: Do you think the ‘Leavers’ have voted to keep out predominantly white, Christian, culturally assimilated Europeans, only to welcome with open arms migrants from elsewhere in the world. Migrants who, as the xenophobes like to remind us, are ethnically different and come from cultures that are incompatible with British ways?

Sorry to disappoint you, friend.  I’m not in an optimistic mood right now.


And now a perfect points-based immigration system!

Brexit was a vote against immigration

Some people have been arguing that by halting the ‘floods of migrants’ from the EU, the UK can now control its borders effectively and introduce a ‘real’ points-based immigration system.  This way it can let in skilled and unskilled labour based on the needs of its economy, not based on the ‘free movement’ principles of the EU.

But every newspaper report I’ve read on this has highlighted that an Australian-style immigration system would mean more migration into the UK, not less.  I can’t see the new Prime Minister sticking out his or her neck for that any time soon.


 Inflation will increase the cost of  living


Pound losing value after Brexit

The Pound is…well, taking a tumble.  As an international student this actually means good and bad news for you.

Doesn’t a weak Pound give you a better exchange rate on your national currency right now?  Your parents may be happy about the windfall.

On the other hand, everyone’s already panicking about inflation.  A weak Pound basically means we get less for our money.  So, any goods that are imported into the UK – including food – could get more expensive.

Also, for all its failings, the EU had meant cheaper consumer prices for us citizens in a number of areas, including flights and mobile phone roaming charges. Without EU regulation and competition rules who will guarantee those benefits won’t disappear?

Pound loses value after Brexit


Did I say Inflation? My bad: I meant Stagflation

What Brexit Means for International Students in UK

Most large companies have been quite clear throughout the referendum campaign that Brexit will make the UK less attractive to businesses and investors.  Some have even said they’ll move their business out of the UK if the EU votes to leave.

Whether these threats were empty or for real,  the growth predictions for the UK have already been revised downwards.  Foreign and local investments are anticipated to slow, house prices may go down, and it is feared normal people like us will start spending less.

 And we’ve learned from the most recent economic crisis in the last 8 years that, when times get tough, companies freeze or reduce their hiring of new staff.

So, if you’re hoping to work in the UK after graduation, the short-terms effects may indeed harm your chances.


Dear fellow international students from the EU…

What Brexit Means for International Students in UK

For the about 125,000 students from the EU studying in the UK, the UK’s membership of the EU has made it one of the most attractive study destinations.  EU students in the UK pay the same tuition fees as local students.  Undergraduates also have access to the UK’s student loan scheme.

What will happen once the UK actually leaves the EU? Will universities start treating EU students the same as ‘overseas’ (non-EU) students?  Right now, undergraduates from the EU pay a maximum of £9,000 in tuition fees per year.  What if on top of the undergraduate student loans disappearing, tuition fees for European students rise to £15,000 or £20,000 per year? And you will  now also have to get a visa to study in the UK?

Will the UK still be an attractive destination?  Or might European students decide to stay in Germany, France or Italy – or just take a longer flight to the US?  UK universities fear the worst.


Wait, there’ll be more money for new scholarships!

What Brexit Means for International Students in UK

Brexiteers say it’s only right that European students should pay higher fees and that they don’t get the same benefits as UK students.  Where’s the logic, they ask, in making ‘wealthy’ European students pay less, while charging high overseas fees to students from developing economies?   With the extra income from European students, UK universities can introduce scholarships for students who really need them.

That’s nice in theory, but unrealistic.  If UK universities stop receiving government subsidies for European students, they will have to fund the shortfall from the tuition fees they receive.  Any money left for scholarships may be spent on scholarships to attract talented European students that UK universities are desperate to recruit.


UK universities will be less diverse

What's my future in UK after Brexit

European students make an important difference to the diversity in classrooms and on campuses across the UK. They are well-educated, articulate and have an international outlook.  If the number of EU student enrolments in the UK drops, this is likely to impact your student experience, no matter where you come from.

Enrolments from the EU are also crucial for some disciplines and many courses may not survive if they lose a large proportion of their European student intake.

And what about all the European academics working at UK universities?  What if many of them decide to take their expertise to the US, Australia or China rather than put up with visa requirements and added bureaucracy in the UK?

Is Brexit Good for UK Universities?


Desiderius Erasmus turning in his grave

Erasmus programme after Brexit

European students love the Erasmus programme – much more so than UK students.  So, many are already worried about what will happen when the UK leaves the EU – will this mean the UK will also leave the Erasmus programme?

Well, not necessarily.  A number of countries that participate in Erasmus right now aren’t members of the EU (Norway, Turkey, Liechtenstein, Iceland and Macedonia).  UK universities will no doubt lobby the government to negotiate with the EU that the UK remains part of the project.  Whether our European friends that we have just jolted will be generous and agree – well, only time will show.


Happy memories from your trips to Europe…

What Brexit Means for International Students in UK

The UK is not part of the EU Shengen area.  So if you’re here on a student visa and want to visit any of the 26 countries within the Shengen area, you would need to get a  Shengen visa.  It’s always been like this, Brexit hasn’t changed anything in that regard.

Final Thought

My undergraduate degree was in European Studies.  This tells you how much I believe – or used to believe – in the European project.  But millions of Europeans don’t share that enthusiasm, and I have to admit that in the past few years I myself have grown more disillusioned with the EU.

Those that have voted to leave the European Union have clearly not seen the benefits of continued EU membership for their lives.   This is a failure by the political class.  Labelling all ‘Leave’ voters as a xenophobic and ignorant lot would be terrible reductionism.  The EU has failed to conquer the hearts and minds of many of its citizens.  David Cameron’s leadership has failed his own campaign – he took the right decision to resign today.   The leader of the Labour opposition opted for politicking  and thus contributed to Brexit.

But, I think what’s wrong with the EU can be fixed. Brexit was in my view an emotional decision, an exaggerated reaction and terrible solution.   Yesterday’s vote will unfortunately have real consequences for us as a country and as a continent.

What it means for international students will, I guess, depend on whether you’re an international student from the EU or from elsewhere in the world.  In either case, the EU referendum has brought out a nasty side in many people.  The political discourse has turned sour.  As I write this, the UK is not the tolerant, friendly country that I’d fallen in love with since I first set foot here many years ago.    But I sincerely hope that rather than opting for self-isolation and a closed island mentality, the British nation will now take stock and decide to be a good European and world citizen outside the European Union.

Showing 10 comments
  • Cam

    Her article is also clearly written based on emotional self. Well, every government is fully prepared for whatever consequences that is stated hereinafter, and I’m pretty sure they are way ahead of us for holding the referendum in the first place. Though on the surface, these are the same contributory factors that has also made UK govt poorer too. I believe this will call for a better negotiating process which will equally benefit everyone be it the EU, Non-EU or nationals of UK. Racism is evident everywhere just subtle in some countries. I enjoyed the article but let not based everything on baseless speculations. 🙏🏽 Well, coming from a UK resident, got to act positively. Hahaha😝

    • Antoinette

      Yes you make an important point about the need to speculate less and have more confidence in the political process. I guess for people like me the referendum was not necessary. It’s not like millions of British people had gone out onto streets to demand a referendum. The government called a referendum to weaken the Eurosceptic my view, a terrible move, but we have to accept the consequences. And like you say, we must move forward thinking positively.

  • Harry

    I’m from outside of EU, what I’m confused is that UK already had a mature points based system for people outside of the EU, why do you need an Australia style points system?

    • Antoinette

      Congratulations Harry for being one of the few people to recognise this contradiction. People act as if the UK simply had an open door immigration policy and even the newspapers writing on the proposals for a points based system ignore that the UK has had one since 2008 (if I remember correctly). It seems we have a porous memory and choose our facts very selectively based on our viewpoint / agenda.

      • Fidelis

        What you are ignoring is the fact that now citizens from the EU would now go through the points based immigration system as overseas citizens, what I’m basically saying is: everyone coming into the UK to work or live would go through that.
        Also, limiting the free movement of EU citizens from entering the UK would give overseas students equal chance of getting employment and visas as other EU citizens, the immigration issue is not a ban on foreigners but a way of checking those who come in to live and work.
        A lot of your message is based solely on ignorance and sentiment and is very contradictory.

        • Antoinette

          I assume, Fidelis, that you’re referring to #4 and #5 in my post. What you say with regards to non-EU citizens getting a ‘more equal playing field’ is exactly the position I summed up under #5. The point I made was that analysts say a revised points-based system is likely to bring in more immigrants. Given this, any new PM (when in place) would unlikely come out in full support of a revised points-based system “any time soon”. I assume what you’re saying is that immigration may not increase as the numbers will be distributed differently when the government is able to limit immigration from within the EU. That’s a very valid consideration, and one that can’t be ignored in any comprehensive treatment of the ‘points-based system’.

          As for your argument that “the immigration issue is not a ban on foreigners but a way of checking those who come in to live and work”, again this is a well-rehearsed line by Brexiteers. But what I talk about under #4 is what voters want, or to put it more crudely: what ‘the man on the street wants’. Today hostility and attacks against ‘foreigners’ have been widely reported in the news. In my personal view, this is only one example of the mismatch that often exists between what policy-makers may think is necessary for our economy and what your average citizen believes is good for their prospects and livelihood.

          As for the personal nature of your attack, I reserve my comment on that as I’m guessing it’s your way for expressing disagreement.

  • Omang Khurana

    The courses getting completed in a lesser time span than USA or other leading countries in case os academics, which still makes it a preferable location from time constraint point of view. Also the quality of education will not be affected due to political issues despite of all the cons of the situation.
    This a very honest and straight forward article btw.

    • Antoinette

      Thank you Omang, that’s kind. I’m pleased to read your positive view of UK education, and agree with you 100% that Brexit doesn’t lessen these advantages. Best wishes

  • Charles Magee

    On the political front, the Leave campaign did not specify what precise arrangements they wanted.

    Now the EU have insisted (their red line) that free trade goes with free movement. Basically, there is nothing stopping parliament agreeing for the UK to exit from EU but staying within the EEA (or similar arrangement); thus there are 4 freedoms and it costs the UK treasury a lot less money.

    Everyone wants to do a deal, even Boris Johnson won’t sacrifice free trade and thinks that some immigration is good. Anti-euro MPs and the 1 UKIP MPs are a minority in parliament. So if other EU countries keep to their red line, then the UK will political establishment will ‘settle’, rather then having custom duties impose on the UK’s export of goods and services to the EU (the UK’s largest trading partner). They will pass an act of parliament that accepts that settlement, which will receive a huge majority.

    Implications for Higher Education: What is currently interesting is that UK HEI charge Norwegian students ‘Overseas fees’, but the Swiss deal with the EU about 10 years ago means that UK charges Swiss students home fees, but they are not entitled to the Student Loan Company. Thus it is my prediction that Erasmus will definitely continue, EU students will probably be charged at ‘Home’ status fees (as part of an education agreement). Unfortunately, the Student Loan Company will probably be discontinued and EU numbers, especially from the 2004 and 2007 EU accession countries will probably dramatically decline, as they are dependant on the SLC, with the prospect (and confidence) of working in the UK post graduation to pay back the SLC.

    • Antoinette

      Hi Charles
      Thank you for sharing your insights and knowledge in this area. “the Leave campaign did not specify what precise arrangements they wanted.” Spot on, and as a result, they’re now tarnishing their own victory. European leaders are quite rightly pointing out “You voted to leave, we assumed you had a plan”. The key campaign pledges have either been backtracked on or are unlikely to command support from our frenemies in Europe: The £350m / day savings for the NHS that remain elusive.The migration control promises that have now been diluted as, according to Mr Johnson, ‘immigration’ was not a major factor in the vote. Regaining control over the country while remaining within the single market – to which Mrs Merkel’s response has been: Nein, Nein, Nein.
      Ah well, apparently we have until 2020/2021 to sort out the full arrangements – but that’s according to our own politicians, not their colleagues in the EU.

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