Brexit and Trump Deter International Students, Survey Shows

Brexit and Trump Deter International Students, Survey Shows

Sabrina Collier

Updated January 7, 2024 Updated January 07

A newly published survey of international students shows that the UK and US have both become less desirable study destinations following 2016’s Brexit referendum and US election.

The report, from UK-based market research agency Red Brick Research, surveyed 219 international students currently studying at UK universities.

Almost two thirds (64%) of respondents said Brexit has made the UK a less desirable place to study, while almost three quarters (73%) said the US is a less desirable study destination following the election of Donald Trump.

UK seen as less welcoming post-Brexit

When asked if they would still choose a UK university now, 68% of survey respondents said they definitely or probably would. However, only 41% of respondents said they would still choose a UK institution after the UK leaves the EU, while 26% were not sure.

Notably, 62% of surveyed EU students said they would definitely not choose the UK if they had to pay international (non-EU) tuition fees.

In accord with other student surveys, a majority of respondents (73%) said they expect the UK to become a less prosperous location to work and study when it leaves the EU. In terms of the personal impact, 59% said they felt international students are less welcome in the UK following the Brexit vote – rising to 74% of graduates from overseas wishing to stay in the UK.

In fact, a public poll conducted by Universities UK last year showed that international students are welcome in the UK, with 75% of those who expressed a view saying they would like to see the same number of, or more, international students in the UK.

Despite concerns, respondents to the Red Brick Research survey still placed a high value on degrees from UK universities, while the pound’s fall in value means that 57% of respondents consider studying in the UK to be more affordable now.

Students looking to Canada and Germany

Following reports that Canadian universities are seeing a surge in interest from US applicants, the Red Brick Research survey suggests that Canada is also proving a popular alternative for EU students deterred by both Brexit and the new US leadership.

While Canada has overtaken the UK as the most desirable English-speaking study destination among surveyed EU nationals, the US has fallen to fourth in this list, with Australia climbing to third place.

However, for non-EU survey respondents, the order of preferred English-speaking study destinations remains unchanged compared to a year ago, with the top five as follows: UK, Canada, US, Australia, New Zealand.

Another country set to benefit is Germany, as the number one choice among both EU and non-EU students when asked to name the most desirable alternatives to studying in the UK.

Will UK universities become less international?

A whopping 93% of Red Brick Research’s EU respondents believe fewer students will choose to study in the UK following its exit from the EU.

With EU applications to UK universities reported to have fallen by 9% in October 2016, it remains to be seen whether the UK will report an overall fall in applications following the main deadline, which passed on 15 January.

Last week saw many UK academics speak out against the dangers of a “hard Brexit”, and institutions are increasingly taking steps to forecast and prepare for impact of leaving the EU. The University of Oxford has appointed a new head of Brexit strategy, while Birmingham City University is set to launch a dedicated Centre for Brexit Studies (CBS).

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more news on the impact of Brexit on UK universities, and what Donald Trump’s presidency could mean for higher education in the US.

Has Brexit or the US election outcome swayed your choice of study destination? Share your experience in the comments below.

This article was originally published in January 2017 . It was last updated in January 2020

Written by

The former Assistant Editor of, Sabrina wrote and edited articles to guide students from around the world on a wide range of topics. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature and Creative Writing from Aberystwyth University and grew up in Staffordshire, UK. 

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