The break with overseas relationships could not have come at a worse time. Last year, a study reported the higher-education sector’s risk due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The pandemic will likely account for losses of up to half of the sector’s overall income as the number of international student enrolments decreases. Although the government launched a scheme to support English universities at risk of insolvency, the restructuring plans did not consider Brexit.
Restrictions on students’ post-study rights to work in the UK influences the amount of EU-domicile student enrolments.
The disadvantages Brexit imposes on the educational sector are not ones to read between the lines. The government does not treat EU students as home students or participate in the Erasmus+ program anymore. Restrictions on students’ post-study rights to work in the UK influences the amount of EU-domicile student enrolments.
In a 1 Granary survey, out of 746 respondents, 57% say that they chose not to study in the UK because of Brexit. An overwhelming amount stated that the financial situation and pre and post-university bureaucracy are the main obstacles.
“I believe that studying in the UK has now become entirely out of reach for many EU students.” – Stephanie Cooper, Fashion Design and Marketing pathway leader, Central Saint Martins
Indeed, particularly the omission of Erasmus+ hits hard. The European exchange program has been promoting and funding the mobility of students within the European community since 1987. The UK Prime Minister argued that the UK had been losing out due to many EU-domicile students at British universities due to the scheme. Paradoxically, the House of Commons published a report on the decrease in EU students shortly after and declared a 5.8% share at national universities. Forbes further claims that universities will face a reduction of tuition fee income by approximately £62.5 million due to Brexit.
Britain’s replacement for Erasmus, the Turing program, sets the tone for the government’s political orientation: it will only financially support home students who wish to study abroad. Students from foreign universities will not be eligible for the program. Instead, they face international fees that are twice as expensive. “I believe that studying in the UK has now become entirely out of reach for many EU students,” says Stephanie Cooper, Fashion Design and Marketing pathway leader at Central Saint Martins. Considering the result of our survey, she is sadly correct.
“This year when I spoke to students, the biggest problem that they had was that the British banks wouldn’t give them a student loan if they studied outside the UK. It is an absolute disaster!” – Adam Jones, Director of Knitwear Design, Master of Arts Program, IFM Paris
Reporting from within the bloc, Adam Jones, Director of Knitwear Design in the Master of Arts Program at IFM Paris, too, expresses his strong opinion on the inequality Brexit imposes: “This year when I spoke to students, the biggest problem that they had was that the British banks wouldn’t give them a student loan if they studied outside the UK. It is an absolute disaster!”
From whatever perspective, the increased financial burden on students is equally catastrophic. The precedence of privilege returns to rule access for higher education. Arguably, UK students lose the most. Cooper makes the point that there are many excellent schools in Europe, hence it is the British universities that will suffer the most under missing tuition fees while their students miss out on crucial chances.
The 1 Granary community once again affirms Cooper. When asking our audience where they went instead, followers revealed cities like Paris, Milan, Madrid, Amsterdam, or Berlin with a few exceptions; most responses were European cities.
“Because the bureaucratic minefield of getting a visa is incredibly complicated, students fear brands might be considering EU students only.” – Stephanie Cooper, Fashion Design and Marketing pathway leader, Central Saint Martins
Overnight, Britain became a foreign country. The European Union Law guarantees the right to freedom of movement. Brexit and the withdrawal from the scheme now require young Britons to apply for a visa to study and work anywhere in the EU.
The Fashion Design and Marketing students at CSM fed back to their pathway leader Cooper that brands ask for their passport details before interviews. “Because the bureaucratic minefield of getting a visa is incredibly complicated, they fear brands might be considering EU students only,” she explains.
It is indisputable that the most prominent fashion houses and, thus, opportunities are in Europe. Brexit sabotages fashion students’ entire careers. “That is most professionals’ stories: you move to another country, do an internship, and then you stay there for a while. You build up your network, and then a job comes up, and you are at the right place at the right time,” says Adam Jones, and adds: “But if you are in a different country, it is hard to slip in when the opportunity arises and that happens a lot! Now, if you are not able to have a work permit and cannot afford to be self-financed, you will not make it!”
The Universities UK webpage promotes anyone to have access to benefit from a university. But it is hard to hold on to values that a government elevates only in parts. And one of the most decisive downsides of Brexit is the harm it does to the diversity on both sides. Cooper believes that “this will diminish the diversity of the cohort of the applicants, and universities will become much more elitist.”
Ten months into Brexit, 95% of our student audience express their helplessness, saying there is insufficient support for students.
Jonson, too, thinks strongly about this aftermath: “The UK students are usually very creative and have such a place in Europe. Particularly in the European knitwear industry.” – “It is a huge negative,” adds Cooper. “This real diverse part of people that all teach each other things, that is the whole point of it. There is not just learning course work; you learn about everything from the people around you.”
“We are now talking to British universities like CSM or Kingston College directly to enable exchanges. We are stronger together to give better opportunities for the students.” – Adam Jones, Director of Knitwear Design, Master of Arts Program, IFM Paris
It has become the fashion industry’s exclusive responsibility to compensate for the loss of financial support, opportunities, and diversity. Ten months into Brexit, 95% of our student audience express their helplessness, saying there is insufficient support for students. Therefore, strong links between universities and brands could be the silver lining. Jones underlines that schools and companies will have to be intelligent about collaborations: “We are now talking to British universities like CSM or Kingston College directly to enable exchanges. We are stronger together to give better opportunities for the students.”
If there is one good Brexit might have brought, it is the utter unity amongst the fashion industry. “We as fashion people and academics will rally and work even more closely together to try to make things easier and offer students opportunities,” ensures Adam Jones.
There are opportunities for fashion courses to replace what the EU had provided them by building a stronger relationship with brands and other universities across borders.
Overall, both scholars agree that leaving the historic membership throws the country back by decades. Despite first attempts to find solutions, the industry remains in a state of shock where they still hope for someone to intervene. “There seem to be so many obstacles at the moment to make it less of a minefield of problems because no one has gone through it yet,” admits Stephanie Cooper.
The post-deal reality has a gaping hole where the EU before Brexit ensured free movement of people, goods, and services. Moreover, while it is too early to tell significant changes, there are opportunities for the fashion courses to replace what the EU had provided them by building a stronger relationship with brands and other universities across borders. In the end, there might not be a European Union with Britain anymore, but at least a union of hope.