- Impact on student numbers and funding seen as the biggest risks
- Over half employ EU nationals with many unclear if these staff will want or be able to remain in the UK post Brexit
With less than a year to go until the UK leaves the European Union, new research from specialist insurer Ecclesiastical has revealed that over half (57%) of Britain’s schools and colleges have no plan in place to deal with the impact of Brexit.
Ecclesiastical, which has been providing insurance to education establishments for over 55 years, discovered that while 43% acknowledged that Brexit would have an impact on their organisation, only a quarter (25%) of schools and colleges have a plan in place to help them get through the Brexit process with the other 18% either in the process of developing one, or believing that they should be.
While the impact on student numbers (48%), the economy (40%) and uncertainty about funding (38%) were highlighted as the biggest risks to their organisations, almost a third (28%) also raised concerns about legislative changes resulting from the impending split.
In January 2018 there were almost 147,000 EU students studying for a higher education qualification in UK¹, contributing £5.1 billion to the UK economy and supporting 20,000 jobs¹. Uncertainty around border control, student visas and fee structures, which could lead to a more complicated application process for EU students, could result in the sector losing out to institutions on the continent that already offer considerably cheaper fees for university and college students².
The UK’s independent schools could be particularly affected. The 2018 Independent Schools Council Census³ showed that 10% of students in the UK’s independent schools are from overseas compared to just 6% across the sector. Faith Kitchen, education director at Ecclesiastical explained: “Changes to the eligibility of EU students to study in the UK and any increases in fees could seriously impact student numbers and income for independent schools. This could be intensified if companies, and therefore the families of employees, relocate to mainland Europe as a reaction to Brexit and we see a large scale exit of current students.”
Ecclesiastical’s research also highlighted the potential impact on teaching staff. One in ten of those surveyed confirmed that EU national staff were already planning to leave the UK following Brexit.
The sector is already stretched when it comes to teacher numbers. In January 2018 a Public Accounts Committee report highlighted the fact that schools only managed to fill around half of vacant positions during 2015/164 and this, coupled with an increase in teachers leaving the profession before reaching retirement age and the decline in teacher training applications, is putting further strain on the sector.
“According to our own research, over half (57%) of British schools and colleges currently employ EU nationals and a third of these are unclear if those staff will want or be able to remain in the UK post Brexit. Depending on the nature and terms of the eventual agreement with the EU, the fallout could leave many in the sector with further recruitment issues, particularly if they are faced with finding replacements for EU staff that may have to leave the country and a shortage of British teachers to fill those positions.” Faith commented.
Ecclesiastical’s research also suggests that for many working in the sector (25%) there is still too much uncertainty around the split. Furthermore, almost a third (31%) of those surveyed said they wanted greater clarity on the issues that will affect the sector post Brexit.
“Despite the uncertainty surrounding Brexit there is still plenty of opportunity for those who are able to plan ahead.” Faith said.
“While leaving the EU could have a negative impact on the level of European students coming to the UK, the recent drop in the value of the pound has actually made the UK education sector more competitive with the US a popular destination for students from Asia. As a result families from Asian countries are starting to see the UK as a more appealing option.
“The need to reach out to the rest of the world to find new students, recruit staff and investment in our educational institutions could also open the UK up to new and exciting research opportunities globally and attract investments from across the world. And our domestic students could also benefit with opportunities to study abroad in countries with which we do not currently have agreements.”