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Brexit concerns waning among prospective students, survey suggests 

Responses to the International Student Survey by Hobsons show 68.5% of prospective students say the EU referendum results had little impact on their interest to study in the UK.

UK, HobsonsThe survey suggests national efforts like the #WeAreInternational campaign are having a positive impact on the perception of the UK among students. Photo: Sheffield University.

Thirty-three per cent of Chinese students said the referendum made them even more interested in the UK

The survey of 62,000 prospective students also found that 11% were more inclined to study in the UK as a result of Brexit while almost 13% said it has made them less interested.

These results indicate a softening of the initial negative reaction to the June 2016 referendum. Another Hobsons poll of 1,000 students in the aftermath of the decision found 36% said the EU referendum had made them less likely to study in the UK.

“While there are methodological differences in the wording of the questions which limit their comparability – since the first poll asked two questions and the second poll asked one – on the face of it this is a potential indication that sentiment towards the UK is less negative than now than it was in the months after the referendum vote,” the report says.

“This is a potential indication that sentiment towards the UK is less negative than now than it was in the months after the referendum vote”

The weakened pound and national welcome campaigns could be responsible for the shift in attitude, according to the survey.

After respondents were shown news coverage of #WeAreInternational and #LondonIsOpen campaigns, almost half (46.6%) felt fully persuaded that the UK is a welcoming country. An additional 37% reportedly feeling slightly persuaded and only 16% said they felt no persuasion at all.

John Raftery, vice chancellor of London Metropolitan University, said the findings match initial application figures at his own institution where international applications are up by 6.5% on last year.

“These findings which suggest the UK could now be more attractive for international students are encouraging,” he said. “It is great to see that campaigns like #WeAreInternational and #LondonIsOpen are having a positive impact, and are making students feel welcome in the UK.”

However, students’ attitudes towards Brexit vary by country. The survey found that 23% of Canadian students, 19% of US and 18% of Thai students said the EU referendum made them less interested in studying in the UK.

Meanwhile just 5% of students in Hong Kong, and 6% of students in both Singapore and Nigeria reported less interest.

Thirty-three per cent of Chinese students and 24% of Saudi Arabian respondents said the referendum made them even more interested in the UK as a study destination.

Despite the reported successes of welcoming campaigns, among students negatively impacted by Brexit, 60% said it was because they now found the UK less welcoming.

Almost half (48.4%) said they thought it would be harder to find a job when they graduate and 45% said it makes the UK less financially viable for them.

One student said, “Prior to the decision I perceived the UK as open minded and warm towards foreigners. Now the view has shifted.”

But, another positive result found students are more inclined to study in the UK as a result of politics in the US.

“Almost 60% of all respondents said they were more likely to study in the UK as a result of the US’s potential travel ban”

Hobsons polled students in March during the week immediately following the government’s second Executive Order banning travel from six mostly Muslim countries, and found 22% of students who were not directly affected by the ban were reconsidering studying in the US as a result.

And almost 60% of all respondents said they were more likely to study in the UK as a result of the potential travel ban, while 58% said they were likely to choose Canada as an alternative. Forty-three per cent said Germany and another 30% said France.

“It is reasonable to conclude that as the next biggest English-speaking market for international students, the UK higher education sector could stand to gain from these changing perceptions of the US as a study destination,” the report states.

Commenting on the survey, Jeremy Cooper, managing director of Hobsons EMEA, said, “While the results of this year’s ISS present a more optimistic picture, UK universities must continue to build on the success of campaigns that show international students are accepted and appreciated in the UK.

“Campaigns like #WeAreInternational and #LondonIsOpen are having a positive effect in helping international students perceive the UK to be welcoming. We believe that more can be done by universities, and by all of us with an interest in UK higher education.”

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