The Vice Chancellor of one of the UK’s top universities has said he is “worried” institutions will close and tuition fees will rise if the government does not protect funding post-Brexit.
According to the Complete University Guide, there are currently around 125,000 EU students paying to study in the UK. The EU is also a major source of funding for universities in Britain.
“If we want to continue to compete at that very top level we have to maintain funding, and if international student funding drops that hole has got to be filled by either Government funding or increased tuition fees,” Professor Brady said.
At Bristol University, 15% of research funding comes from the European Union. EU students make up 5% of the student population, while 20% of academic staff originate from EU countries.
Professor Brady said these people must not be used as “bargaining chips” in Brexit negotiations.
But the government has refused to give EU students starting new courses assurances about tuition fees and immigration beyond the 2017-18 academic year.
The professor also argued that international students should be removed from immigration figures. A study earlier this year found that 76% of Brits do not view foreign students as immigrants.
“It is very reassuring to see that even if people voted Remain or Brexit they appreciated the value - economic or otherwise - that international students bring to our society and our economy,” the VC said.
Data shows that overseas students generate the UK £11 billion each year, while Universities UK claims the higher education makes up 2.8% of GDP - around £73 billion a year.
“The UK system is up there with the very best in the world at the moment,” Professor Brady added. “Why would we possibly want to jeopardise that system which is so important for our economic future?”
A government spokesperson told Sky News: “The UK is home to some of the world’s best universities and our investment of £2 billion per year for scientific research and development will ensure we continue to be a global leader in science.
“As we exit the EU we will strive to ensure we build on our achievements and remain a leading destination for the brightest and best minds at all stages of their careers.
“We have already provided assurances for EU students applying for student funding in England for courses starting in the academic year 2017/18.
“We will also underwrite the payment of Horizon 2020 awards made before we leave the EU, even if projects continue beyond the UK’s departure.”