As many Britons mourn Brexit, international students celebrate weaker pound

While many Britons are mourning over the UK’s imminent exit from the European Union, international students are celebrating the weaker pound which has led to lower tuition fees and cheaper shopping prices. The result could be the arrival of more non-EU students to the UK, even as the country may seem less attractive as a study destination for EU students in the long term.

The UK is a popular study destination for Asian countries like China, India and Malaysia, which send a good chunk of their students to the UK to pursue degrees like business, law, and medicine. However, in the long term, a strong pound may still deter Asian students from studying in the UK, preventing a meaningful substitution of EU students lost due to Brexit.

That being said, even before the Brexit vote, China had a staggering amount of students in the UK. In 2014-2015, there were 89,540 Chinese students in the UK, according to a report released by the UK Higher Education International Unit. As the report notes, “[m]ore than 1 in 5 non-UK students and 1 in 3 non-EU students studying in the UK were from China in 2014-15.”

Chinese media carried reports of students cheering lower tuition fees and going on shopping sprees in the UK.

“My tuition fees are about £15,000 and my accommodation fees for the year are about £5,500 which would have been worth 198,850 yuan ($29,892.73) before Brexit,” student Qu Xinyi said, according to the Global Times.

“But now I only need to pay about 180,400 yuan – around 20,000 yuan less.”

According to QS Top Universities, an international undergraduate student in the UK pays an average of £11,987 per year for tuition. This works out presently to ¥106,058. But right before the Brexit pound plunge, that figure was about ¥118,296. This means Chinese students could save an average of ¥12,238 per year – a not insubstantial sum.

Malaysian students also stand to benefit from the weak pound. In 2014-2015, there were 17,060 of them studying in the UK, according to the UK HE International Unit report. Right now, they would pay an average of RM63,498 per year, compared to about RM71,074 before the pound plunged – a potential saving of RM7,576 per year.


The story is the same across the Asian region. Thai students would currently pay an average of ฿557,215 per year for tuition, compared to ฿627,561 before – a difference of ฿70,346. Vietnamese students would pay an average of ₫354,694,825 now, compared to ₫401,256,809 – saving ₫46,561,984.

No question that UK education is now cheaper for Asian students. Whether it is cheap enough to offset the expected loss of EU students remains to be seen..

Image via AP Images.

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