On the 23rd June 2016, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. What impact will this political earthquake have on the UK education sector?
For the independent sector, there is some concern that the Brexit vote will have a detrimental impact on school finances. If the economic outlook takes a turn for the worse, school investments supporting bursaries may suffer. Some independent schools offer bursary aid to up to 30% of students. So should schools begin to tighten their criteria for bursary applications, this could have a material difference on which schools parents decide to apply to.
Visa reform will also return to the agenda following the Brexit vote. Visa regulations have been a hot political topic in recent years, especially for non-EU university students. One key area to look out for is to see how changes in visa regulations may affect EU students. It is important to note that any potential change to the visa regulations is unlikely to materialise in the immediate future.
The Brexit vote may also encourage parents to take a closer look at independent schools in Scotland. Following the referendum result, there is an increased possibility that Scotland will hold another referendum on its independence from the United Kingdom. Should Scotland cede from the United Kingdom and apply for membership to the European Union, then schools in Scotland may become more attractive (compared to their English counterparts) to other EU students. Again, this trend is likely to play out over a number of years.
Finally, one of the most urgent questions following the Brexit vote is whether tuition fee loans for EU students starting university courses in the UK in 2016-17 will be honoured. There are also scores of research schemes and collaborative projects between the UK and European universities, which vice-chancellors are already seeking reassurance on.
While it is clear that Brexit has created an air of uncertainty, what is certain is that the results of the referendum will send shockwaves throughout the education sector for months and years to come.