Oct 5, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

Earlier this year, the UK’s Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) released data for the 2016-2017 year. While significant in and of itself, the report was particularly significant for one reason: the 2016-2017 academic year was the first to fall entirely post-Brexit. Here’s a closer look at the figures, along with recent insights from one EU academic in the UK.

Increasing Numbers

Many experts predicted that Brexit would trigger an exodus of international academics. Rather than falling, however, the number of academics rose. According to HESA, there were 442,375 “total non-UK” students enrolled in UK higher education institutions in 2016-2017 compared to 438,010, 436,585, 435,210, and 424,815 for 2015-2016, 2014-2015, 2013-2014, and 2012-2013, respectively.

The number of EU academics in the UK also grew, albeit at a slower rate, according to a May 2018 Centre for Global Higher Education policy briefing by Giulio Marini.

A Call for Clarity

While HESA data is heartening, some students have found themselves stuck in limbo due to what they deem to be inadequate communication from the Home Office. In a THE piece published last month, Romanian PhD student Alexandra Bulat detailed receiving a rejection letter her permanent residency application with no details beyond her failure to provide “enough evidence.”  

“Thinking about the email, I realized that the situation I am in illustrates a lot of what is wrong with the Home Office and how it is treating European Union citizens who want to continue their lives in the UK,” wrote Bulat.

“Some EU academics have left the UK, others have plans to leave. But for those early career researchers such as me, who wish to stay and contribute to the rich academic traditions of the UK, our rights have been in limbo for almost 800 days. The question is: how much longer will we wait? And why are politicians praising EU students and academics, while simultaneously forcing them into a future of uncertainty?” Bulat continued.

“The attractiveness of the system as a whole for students might also have an indirect impact on maintaining the number of non-UK EU nationals at UK universities….A deal to enable academic staff mobility and to confirm the status of EU nationals who were residents at the date of the referendum is essential and urgent if the country’s HE sector is to continue to thrive,”  adds Marini.

Read more about the work visa situation for international graduates in the UK here.

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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