How to support and attract European students post Brexit

“Marketing of British higher education institutions needs to be relevant in this time of disruption”

The United Kingdom’s departure from the EU is a complex and controversial political process, now extended until January 2020. We are the second most popular study destination in the world for international students, behind the US, with almost 460,000 international students in 2017/18, with 30.3% of these coming from the EU.

Clearly, international students are very important to the UK’s higher education sector. Although Brexit should not concern European students currently studying in the UK up to Autumn 2020, as they will be granted “home status” by the government, it does pose a difficult level of uncertainty for European students going forward. Students who arrive after we leave the EU will need to apply for European temporary leave to remain in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Admissions offices need to be thinking of ways in which they can support students through the process and beyond, as well as how to continue to attract international students. The most likely outcome of Brexit is higher tuition fees, with European students treated the same as non-European international students.

Admissions staff should provide a positive and supportive message to those interested in studying in the UK to ensure the application process is as smooth as possible. Institutions need to make sure that advice on every step of the application process is up to date in a timely fashion whilst showing students that there are still great benefits to gaining a higher education degree from a UK university regardless of any possible changes to their administration procedures.

The application process for European students is likely to mirror other international applicants. European students should be informed that they will need to apply for a visa and provide financial proof they can cover the living expenses of studying in a foreign country, as well as taking IELTS.

Once students have completed the transition to the UK, they need to be reminded to collect their biometric residence permit within 10 days of arrival as proof of their purpose in the UK. Make sure your website is current with any new deadlines and dates, as well as visa and financial requirements. In addition, update any promotional literature and any digital media.

Marketing of British higher education institutions needs to be relevant in this time of disruption, with improved outreach to European students. A combination of traditional and digital marketing is the best way to promote your university to those living in Europe.

Traditional methods of marketing within education include open days and prospective student events. Open days provide students and parents alike with immense experience in what it would really be like to study and live in the UK. Anything that makes your open day unique will help prospective students remember your institution when it comes to admissions.

In addition, you may want to consider attending international events across European capitals to meet possible students that may be thinking of studying in the UK. These opportunities can be supported by institutions such as the British Council. Consider using European alumni to promote your courses back in their home countries, this form of word-of-mouth advertising will indirectly reach your target audience in an unobtrusive manner.

“Anything that makes your open day unique will help prospective students remember your institution when it comes to admissions”

A more digital approach would be with the use of your university website, this should be updated constantly with new or relevant information for European students. Not only is your website a great way to share information quickly but it is also the forefront of your institution to those living abroad. The online persona of your university should accurately represent what you stand for and what you

offer as an education institution. A smooth online customer experience is vital when marketing your university online, your website should be mobile-friendly and rich with content to help boost SEO (search engine optimisation).

The truth is, at this point, nobody knows for sure what the political landscape will look like next year. However, we do know that the admissions team will play a greater role regardless of the outcome, both as the welcoming party for the institutions they represent and their part in maintaining positive, successful partnerships with international students choosing the United Kingdom for their higher education.

About the author: Stephen Spriggs is managing director of William Clarence Education, one of the UK’s leading educational consultancies assisting families around the world with a variety of services.