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How universities are adapting their recruitment strategies post-Brexit

How universities are adapting their recruitment strategies post-Brexit

Following the vote to leave the European referendum in June 2016, a raft of negative news coverage appeared and caused anxiety for those who rely on European support for their studies or profession. Nowhere felt it more than the higher education sector, with institutions across the country relying heavily on European students.

In towns and cities with large student populations, local businesses often rely heavily on students to fill job vacancies. Notwithstanding the huge spending power of students across the regions, these issues present a real problem for universities and local communities with the government being increasingly vague about how it intends to safeguard the rights of EU citizens in the UK. Accusations of using students and EU residents as bargaining chips have been leveled since the Referendum result was announced, and the Government has done little to reassure a community which is beginning to feel the strain.

Given this turbulent atmosphere, British universities have been forced to take pre-emptive action when planning for student numbers in the coming years and have been looking at innovative and alternative ways to attract students from across the world.

16-30 year olds are currently the prime target for many trying to attract customers to their brand, but higher education marketers are already being forced to focus their attentions on the so-called “Gen Z” generation of under 18s born after 2000.

With the UCAS application deadline passing on the 15th January, higher education institutions across the country are now tasked with assessing just how well their recruitment drives have gone. EU students and international students have long attended UK universities in the knowledge that they were attaining some of the finest education the world has to offer, but considering the uncertainty and the ever-growing cost, is it still worth the risk?

At the moment, UK and EU students will be charged £9,250 a year to take a degree, rising to between £10,000 and £35,000 for international students. This combined with the average annual cost of living of close to £12,000 makes the overall cost of a three-year degree for a typical UK undergraduate £73,000.

Even disregarding the cost aspect, many students study in the UK in the knowledge that, once they graduate, they can get a graduate job and happily settle in the UK for some of the highest graduate salaries in Europe. With that status of residency now on the line, will this become a recipe for disaster?

Many universities are now investigating the possibility of offering deals and bargains along with their tuition fees, such as buy-one-get-one-free degrees or other highly sought-after perks, in an attempt to fill as many course spots as possible. The Sunday Times reported in August that some were even offering free Premier League tickets and high-tech gadgets like iPads as some of the perks up for grabs, with some going as far as discounting courses if a student manages to get a sibling or partner to sign up to a course.

The University of Sheffield is one of several institutions to offer top A-level students a free master’s course worth up to £10,000 if they enrol as an undergraduate first, while York University is offering discounted postgraduate courses. Similarly, Kingston University London is reducing the price of a Master’s degree by approximately a quarter.

As the Brexit negotiations enter their preliminary stages, a key area that needs to be addressed by the UK government is the status of EU students in order to support higher education across Britain. If this is not resolved, then higher education institutions will have to continue looking for more innovative ways to attract the best and the brightest.

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