The new system will be introduced from January 2021 and is expected to result in a significant decline in the number of students from European countries learning in the UK.

“Now is the time for UK government to demonstrate how much they value European students”

A drop in numbers of students from the EU comes at a time when many universities are facing the continued challenges posed by Covid-19.

Now UUK is calling for five “key” steps that can be taken by policymakers to help stabilise the EU/EEA student demand.

“Now is the time for UK government to demonstrate how much they value European students, who make up more than a third of all international students in the UK,” Vivienne Stern, director of Universities UK International, said.

“We welcome improvements to the visa system and the introduction of the graduate route but we must appreciate that, for EU students, there are new barriers to choosing to study in the UK.

“We need to be creative to ensure we can still attract these students,” she said.

Stern said that at the moment, European students are looking at their options for autumn 2021.

“We need to work hard to make sure the UK is attractive. That means providing clear information, working harder to promote the UK, and offering new forms of financial support,” she added.

UUK’s paper calls on the government to continue to promote the new student route so that all international students are aware of the changes being introduced, saying this is particularly important for EU / EEA students.

The paper also says that the Study UK campaign should be extended into key markets in Europe by coordinating existing campaigns currently in European markets and increasing investment in Study UK to £20 million a year.

UUK has suggested that EU students should be provided with targeted financial support such as through an expanded or newly developed EU scholarship offer and that the immigration route application costs should be lowered so they are in line with the UK’s international competitors.

It has also called for the government to commit to continually reviewing immigration requirements in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Universities UK has been encouraged by recent commitments made to international students… but believes the next generation of overseas talent could slip through the cracks and be lost to global competitors unless immediate action is taken,” UUK said in a statement.

The new graduate route is replacing the Tier 4 visa and will help to streamline the immigration process for international students.

As of October 5, EU nationals can apply for their entry clearance applications, so they can enter the UK from 1 January 2021.

UUK and UUKi are working closely with the Home Office, Department for Education, British Council, and universities to ensure the changes are communicated to students, but say there is more government can do to safeguard demand.

More than 450,000 overseas students study at UK universities each year, with one-third from EU countries.

UUK said that their presence enriches the university experience for all students, contributing billions of pounds to the wider economy.

Research by HEPI, Kaplan and London Economics has found that one EU cohort can add as much as £5.1 billion to the UK economy through the direct and indirect economic benefits associated with student spending, a figure that amounts to an individual contribution of £87,000 per student.

UUK’s briefing paper, entitled, ‘Five ways to stabilise EU/ EEA demand following the introduction of the new points-based system’ can be read in full here.

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