Ucas To Allow Applications To European Universities, Raising Threat Of A UK 'Brain Drain'

European Union flags outside Brussels
European Union flags outside Brussels
Sylvain Sonnet via Getty Images

Ucas, the UK's university admissions body, announced on Monday it is reforming its system to allow UK students to apply to European universities through them, raising concerns of a "brain drain" from British institutions to those on the continent.

Whilst the changes ease the process of applying for European institutions - institutions which derive popularity from their generally lower fees - such as the Netherlands' Maastricht University, with its fees of around £1,500 per year - experts have warned any overseas exodus will be damaging to the UK's higher education system.

A prediction reported by the Daily Telegraph estimated one in 10 students would opt for a European university as a result of the change.

Ian Fordham, co-founder of the Education Institution, claimed those responsible for university admissions might well be "dropping their tea" and "re-thinking how they approach recruitment" when they hear of the news.

“In the short term you might not see a big spike," he continued, "but I think in the next couple of years it could take out a good 10% of students at least.

"I think there’s a chance of a brain drain; on the whole the top universities would stay stable, but those middle-tier universities and those out of the Russell Group would probably be hardest hit as European universities may well have the edge on them."

In contrast, Martin Paul, the president of Maastricht University, told the Guardian that "we are rather thinking of brain circulation, not brain drain."

Currently, 435,500 international students are carrying out their studies in the UK, whilst only 30,000 British citizens are studying at a higher education institution elsewhere in the European Union.

A Ucas spokesperson has defended the organisation's decision, saying: "The higher education environment has changed significantly in the last few years with the intention of giving students more choice.

"With more choice in the market there is a need to ensure that student interests are protected. We want students who apply for courses through Ucas to be confident that they are applying for a verified qualification at an institution which meets the relevant quality standards.

"As a consequence, we have reviewed the criteria for access to Ucas services to ensure that they are fit for purpose in this changing environment."

The "changing environment" referred to by the spokesperson includes a 2% rise in university applications compared to the same point last year, with 592,290 applicants.

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