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UK: IHE highlights “chaotic political environment”

Less than a quarter (23%) of UK independent providers of higher education who took part in a survey said they are planning for “multiple different outcomes” as part of the Brexit process, while more than half said they are not planning for the country’s exit from the European Union.

IHEPanellists discuss the findings of the IHE survey with presenter Joy Elliott-Bowman. Photo: Callan Quinn

Many providers predict a decline in EU numbers

Questions around Brexit were just one aspect of the Independent Higher Education survey released during the IHE Annual Conference in November – the UK’s flagship event for leaders in the independent HE sector.

“There’s a lot of work being done”

When combined, the 82 responding providers to the third edition of the survey teach a total of 64,561 full-time students. But while the 2019 sample includes more non-EU students studying than ever before, a decrease in both EU and UK students was also noted.

“For the coming year, many providers predict a decline in EU numbers and contrasting growth in UK staff and students,” the survey stated.

One-third of small providers fear that they will lose EU students, it explained, while most large providers expect to grow UK and non-EU student numbers but to lose EU staff.

Responding providers who stated that they are planning for Brexit said their plans are centred around changes to the Tier 4 and Tier 2 system to accommodate EU nationals and student recruitment.

“Several providers mentioned that part of their planning was to apply for a Tier 4 licence for the first time,” read the survey.

Meanwhile “almost no providers” said were planning specifically for the withdrawal agreement as proposed in the UK parliament.

The survey also looked at transnational education models on offer, with online learning noted as the most common. This was followed by blended learning delivered in-person with short visits to the UK and short professional courses delivered outside the UK.

The survey also revealed that 13 providers aim to form a new international partnership by 2021, while five want to open a new campus elsewhere in the world.

“Delegates to this year’s IHE conference grappled with the challenges of operating in a chaotic political environment… as well as looking ahead to global opportunities for growth,” Alex Proudfoot, chief executive at IHE, told The PIE News.

During the IHE conference, a session on ‘Global growth and enterprise in higher education’ took place, which looked at the country’s international education strategy, released earlier this year.

Anne Marie Graham, chief executive of UKCISA, called for international student experience to be included in future strategies, noting that the high fees paid by many can leave them questioning if they are getting value for money for their education.

“There’s a lot of work being done to look at this and measure employability… [and] at how we’re providing careers advice and employability services for international students.

“With the return of the post-study work visa this will become increasingly important,” she added.

Graham also noted that plans to diversify the source countries of inbound students would be a challenge with the current immigration system as financial restrictions posed an “inherent barrier to social mobility”.

The 2019 IHE Awards were also presented during an evening reception at the conference.

The winners are:

Advancing International Education – winner, Royal Academy of Dance

Excellence in Student Collaboration – winner, Regent College London, honourable mention: Royal Academy of Dance

Outstanding Industry Partnerships – winner, Pearson College London, honourable mention: ThinkSpace Education

Leaders in Student Outreach – winner, Royal Academy of Dance

Breakthrough course: Innovation in Design or Delivery – winner, Le Cordon Bleu, honourable mention: ThinkSpace Education

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