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What Brexit Means for Britain’s Business Schools

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With David Cameron having officially resigned and Prime Minister Theresa May taking up residence behind “the most famous black door in the world” at 10 Downing Street, speculations abound regarding just what the full implications of the United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union will be. Immediately following the Brexit vote, we reached out to admission directors at leading business schools in Britain to get their views on what it means for incoming MBA students in the short term, as well as what some of the longer-term impacts might entail.

Britain’s Business Schools
Conrad Chua, director of MBA admissions, marketing and recruitment, Judge Business School

Most expressed surprise that the “leave” vote won out, but followed immediately with assurances that any impact would not influence current incoming students. “I can say that we have not seen any impact on the incoming class in terms of the number of students we will enroll for the class starting September 2016,” says Conrad Chua, who heads MBA admissions, marketing and recruitment at Cambridge University’s Judge Business School.

“The students in the current class are continuing to receive and accept job offers, and we know of several students who have received offers in the two weeks since the referendum,” he continued. “The Cambridge Judge Business School is a globally-oriented school, and that means our students are well-positioned to capitalize on economic opportunities.”

Cambridge University as a whole issued the following statement, again seeking to reassure students concerned about the implications of the referendum vote.

“We recognise that there is a great deal of uncertainty around the referendum result that called for the UK to leave the European Union. I would like to reassure our staff and students that discussions are already underway with senior figures in government, higher education and other stakeholders to assess, and give due prominence to, the critical issues which are facing our university, and the sector as a whole.

At the same time, a university working group is already meeting to consider staff, students, post-doctoral research, partnerships and nationality issues. I would like to stress again that, even though the referendum result was in favor of leaving the European Union, there is no immediate change to the university’s teaching, research and other activities. We will continue to work as normal.

The university will work closely with the government to ensure it takes steps to guarantee that staff and students from the EU can continue to work and study in this country, and that the higher education sector has a strong voice in ongoing negotiations. Cambridge thrives as part of a wide international community of academic staff and students, and we remain deeply committed to global cooperation and our dedicated staff who come from all over the world.”

Acknowledging that the full impact of leaving the EU will have on tuition fees and loans is not yet known, Cambridge confirmed that “any EU students who are already studying at Cambridge, who have an offer to study at Cambridge or who apply to start their studies in 2017 will not be subject to the Overseas fee at any point during the course of their study, provided this continues to be permitted by UK law.” The fee for those students will remain at the Home/EU rate applicable at the time, the university stated. Fees for applicants considering entry in 2018, however, have yet to be set.

Weakened Pound Makes Study More Affordable for Some
The London School of Economics (LSE), for its part, noted that several incoming students it has been in touch with since the Brexit vote—both EU students and international students more widely—have expressed very positive views on the favorable exchange rate resulting from the pound’s plummet in the wake of the Brexit vote. Indeed, the pound dropped almost 10 percent in the days immediately following the referendum results, and though it has since recovered some, a UK education has nonetheless been rendered suddenly much more affordable for students paying in dollars, say.

Because LSE does not offer a full-time MBA program, which is of greatest interest to the majority of Clear Admit readers, we’ve opted to look at the impact of the devalued pound on tuition and fees for London Business School (LBS)’s MBA. For students beginning the MBA program there in 2016, tuition fees are £70,800. The day before the Brexit vote, that amounted to $105,517. At the current rate of exchange, tuition for students paying in dollars would be $93,623.

Britain’s Business Schools
Saul Estrin, deputy head of strategy and resources at LSE’s Department of Management

LSE Professor Saul Estrin, who is deputy head of strategy and resources for the school’s Department of Management, reports that his department has been working actively with incoming students who will join LSE’s graduate business and management programs in October to determine the impact Brexit might have on the school and its students.

Admitted students from EU countries, in particular, have expressed concerns about what the uncertainty the Leave result brings in terms of visas and changes to eligibility for “home” tuition fees, which students from anywhere in the EU would have qualified for as long as the UK remained part of the EU.

“We were able to guarantee that the fees we charge EU students will remain the same as ‘home’ UK students for the next two academic years, and also to reassure them that visa regulations will not change in the short term as negotiations to leave the EU will take place over a period of two years,” Estrin says. This is very similar to the statement put out by Cambridge regarding home/EU rates.

“Overall, so far we have seen a small reaction from incoming EU students, with mixed views on both the positives and negatives of Brexit,” Estrin says. “This is anecdotal evidence on the impact of the vote for the moment, and it remains to be seen what tangible impacts there may be on our enrollments in October, or on our applications in the next admissions cycle.”

“This Should Not Give the Signal That the UK Has Turned Inwards”

Britain’s Business Schools
David Simpson, admissions director, MBA and MiF, London Business School

LBS Admissions Director David Simpson stressed to prospective applicants that the global nature of the LBS MBA program will not shift as a result of the Brexit vote.  “For higher education as a whole, and London Business School in particular, this should not give the signal that the UK has turned inwards,” he says. “We are a global school and will continue our commitment to being so. I believe that the UK will remain an attractive place to study and we will continue to celebrate our diversity.”

Dame Julia Goodfellow, president of Universities UK, a representative organization for all of the UK’s universities, issued a statement immediately following the Brexit vote pledging to do everything within the organization’s power to protect the global nature of the UK’s schools valued by Simpson and Chua, among many others. “Leaving the EU will create significant challenges for universities,” Goodfellow stated. “Although this is not an outcome that we wished or campaigned for, we respect the decision of the UK electorate. We should remember that leaving the EU will not happen overnight—there will be a gradual exit process with significant opportunities to seek assurances and influence future policy.”

Universities UK, for its part, will focus its efforts on securing support that will help the UK’s universities maintain their global outlook and international networks and continue to draw students from across Europe and around the globe. “These features are central to ensuring that British universities continue to be the best in the world.”

“Our first priority will be to convince the UK government to take steps to ensure that staff and students from EU countries can continue to work and study at British universities in the long term, and to promote the UK as a welcoming destination for the brightest and best minds.”

For a comprehensive FAQ on the impact of Brexit on higher education in Britain, visit the Universities UK website.