Thursday, June 07, 2018 at 3pm

How UK Business Schools Can Turn Brexit into a Positive

How UK Business Schools Can Turn Brexit into a Positive main image

Apparently, Brexit could be an opportunity for growth among universities in the United Kingdom. The results of the sixth annual QS Enrolment Solutions’ International Student Survey (ISS) reveal chances for institutions of higher learning in the UK to turn Brexit into a positive.

ISS is a survey of 67,172 prospective international students from 191 countries, 28,020 of which are considering studying in the UK. The results are in the report Harnessing Opportunities in Global Education.

Namely, there is an opening to extend the export of UK education to regions such as Asia and Africa. To be successful, however, UK schools must recognize and seize the opportunity and take appropriate action.

How Brexit is influencing perceptions

As a result of the Brexit vote and its nationalist undertones, universities and businesses have been wondering if international applicants would feel unwelcome in the UK. Many have pontificated about the possibility of losing business and have been closely observing people’s reactions to the vote.

In fact, 39 percent of prospective students from within the EU are less interested in pursuing their education in the UK as a result of Brexit, according to the ISS. While this might seem awkward, the results of our survey demonstrate there can be some positive outcomes. For instance, only 10 percent of prospective students from outside the EU said they feel deterred. Clearly, students from outside of Europe are less concerned with the implications of Brexit, and schools must seize on this.

The ISS also revealed that the drop in the value of the pound, a result of Brexit, is making the UK more attractive to international students. Prospective students from Pakistan, Sudan, Ethiopia, China, and Hong Kong all said they were particularly interested in universities in the UK because they find them more affordable now.

What universities can do

To show they’re receptive to candidates from outside their borders, UK universities can:

  • Commit to a welcoming campaign. This means courting prospective students on social media. A little more than 80 percent of respondents to the ISS survey said campaigns such as #WeAreInternational and #LondonIsOpen made them believe the UK still has open arms. Coming up with school-specific hashtag campaigns is a good start.
  • Court the most receptive prospective students. Schools should focus on those who consider the UK a more economical option now. The survey also found that welcoming campaigns are most effective with those in China (85 percent), India (85 percent), and Nigeria (83 percent). Pinpointing international candidates is a great way to tighten the reins of your marketing campaign budget and better direct your message.
  • Publicize affordability. “With the current uncertainty in the sector as the UK prepares to exit the EU, any future proposals which help to make the UK a more attractive place to study from a financial perspective should be more widely publicized,” says Patrick Whitfield, director of UK and Europe at QS Enrolment Solutions. It’s up to universities to ensure information about affordability, fees and scholarships is well-communicated.
  • Don’t just pay lip service to these ideas. Schools have to truly be open to international students. They have to put out the welcome mat and prove Brexit is a political move that doesn’t influence the education or experience UK universities will be providing.
  • Meet student expectations. With an eye on the future, schools must recognize what students want and need today and tomorrow. The first step is understanding what is likely to happen in the near future. Respondents to the survey said they expect their lectures to be made available online in the future, just one way a university’s teaching can adapt to meet expectations.

Moving forward

Ultimately, UK higher education is at a crossroads. Brexit is putting the onus on schools to better demonstrate their value and show their true colors by embracing diversity amid implementation of some nationalistic political policies. While schools should create welcoming campaigns and develop strategies to prove affordability, they mostly should just do a great job of educating people.

Now is the time to best prepare young people for the rapid technological changes on the horizon. It is the moment to begin creating re-training programs for older workers. No one can afford to rest on their laurels. Instead, schools should embrace possibilities like putting their curriculum online and finding ways to reach those who might not have thought an education was possible.

Simply, educators have to devise a strategy and live their values. “Plan your work for today,” said Margaret Thatcher. “Then, work your plan.” 

This article was originally published on LinkedIn.

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Nunzio is the founder and CEO of QS. Following completion of his own MBA from the Wharton School, he has gone on to become a leader in education management with over 25 years of experience in the industry. He is truly passionate about education and firmly believes in the QS mission to help young people to fulfill their potential through educational achievement, international mobility and career development. 

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