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Applications from EU students to UK universities down 40 percent

LONDON — U.K. universities have reported a 40 percent fall in the number of applications for undergraduate degrees from EU nationals, ahead of a spike in tuition fees due to Brexit.

Data from the national application service Ucas published Thursday show that the number of EU students applying for undergraduate courses at British higher education institutions dropped from 43,030 to 26,010 in one year. The data covers applications received before the main January 29 application deadline for courses starting this fall.

Although the coronavirus restrictions in many countries might have had an impact, the drop is largely attributed to a significant increase in tuition fees for EU students starting undergraduate and postgraduate degrees from the 2021-22 academic year.

EU nationals not covered by the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement will no longer be eligible for “home fee” status and loans for courses starting in September.

Those enrolled in English universities, for example, used to pay £9,250 in tuition fees per year, but that amount will now be up to four times higher, depending on the university and the type of degree.

Irish students will continue to be eligible for home fees and loans, due to bilateral arrangements with Britain. Ucas data show that applicants from Ireland increased by 26 percent, to 4,850, in comparison with January 2020.

Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of the vice chancellors’ lobby group Universities UK, said the fall in demand from EU applicants was cause for concern.

“The U.K. government and universities must continue to demonstrate how much they value European students by working together to promote the U.K. as a high quality destination for study and by offering new forms of financial support,” he said.

In contrast, applications from outside the EU continued to rise, going up by 17 percent to a record 85,610, according to Ucas. Applications from the U.S. grew by 61 percent to 6,670 — the largest proportional increase of any major country.

The Department for Education said the new Graduate Route type of visa, allowing international students to work in the U.K. for up to two years upon graduation, and an international education strategy launched earlier this month will help boost the number of applications from overseas.

“We continue to welcome international students, including those from EU countries, to study at our world-class universities,” a government spokesperson said, adding that the target was to recruit at least 600,000 overseas students by 2030.

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