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Published by at July 13th, 2023 , Revised On July 13, 2023

The impact Brexit could have on International students’ skills challenge.


According to (HESA, 2021), the UK was home to 485,645 international students. 143,025 of these were from the EU, and 342,620 were from countries other than the EU. This shows a huge interest of international students in the UK’s higher education. On top of that, according to (The Migration Observatory, 2021), up till the third quarter of 2020, about 16% of people working in the UK were not born in the UK. And in 2019, about 30 per cent of the hospitality sector migrants, 24 per cent of the IT sector migrants, and 20 per cent of the social work sector migrants. This shows the importance of migrants in the UK’s economy and their skill level, which overshadows locals in many sectors. But recently, according to (House of Commons Education Committee, 2017), the news of Brexit has created ripples among the higher education sector and international students in the UK. They are uncertain about their future in the UK. This can affect the skills of international students in the UK. According to (The Migration Observatory, 2021), unskilled migrants in the UK have suffered more unemployment as compared to unskilled local people. And with the uncertainty about the future of higher education, especially students from the EU can suffer skill loss and unemployment due to lack of funding from the UK’s government. The (House of Commons Education Committee, 2017) has proposed its solution for them; the government should give immediate clarification about the future of international students in the UK. And provide them with educational support without any discrimination. This will help them keep learning and playing their part in UK’s economy.

Situation Analysis

Contextual Background – Industry/Organization

According to (Mohamed et al., 2017), the construction industry demands a higher-skilled labour force. But due to the insufficiency of the local skilled labour force. The construction industry primarily consists of migrants and especially EU migrants that come here for higher education, but due to a higher wage rate in UK’s construction sector, they start working in the UK. Due to the threat of Brexit (Mohamed et al., 2017), research shows that many skilled workers in construction might not be able to work in the UK, which will create a shortage in this sector. And that will hurt UK’s economy. According to (Dolton et al., 2018), in Britain, just over 5 per cent of regulated healthcare professionals are from within the EEA, about 9 per cent of physicians, 16 per cent of dentists, and 5 per cent of allied healthcare professionals. Their numbers and distribution by profession and geography have shifted rapidly following the Brexit 2016 vote and are considered components of the workforce. This shows the importance of international migrants in the health sector of the UK. And after Brexit, these professionals feel sceptical about their future in the UK. This can affect the skills of people studying and working here, and that can affect UK’s health sector. According to (Falkingham et al., 2019) international students represent a large proportion of students seeking higher education in the UK. Due to ,this these students are more skilled as compared to local students who drop out after high school. It implies the larger sectors of the UK’s economy are run by migrants. (Falkingham et al., 2019) study shows due to the uncertainty caused by Brexit about the future of these migrants (EU) in the UK, many (EU) students are not able to return to the UK after Brexit. Due to this, those students will not be able to study further in the UK, which will affect their skill level. And it will create a deficit of skilled labour in the UK’s economy. (Fowler et al., 2018) found that right before the referendum on Brexit, a large number of EU students enrolled in engineering undergraduate programs in the UK. Due to the standard of education in the UK and employment opportunities due to the less skilled local labour force, many EU students come to the UK. The study shows that Brexit students are doubtful about their educational and employment future in the UK. They might not be able to return to the UK after Brexit. This can affect their ability to learn and can affect the already widening gap between skilled labour and skilled jobs in the UK.

On the contrary (Vargas-Silva, 2016) argues that it is very difficult to predict how Brexit will affect international students especially EU students. It all depends upon Brexit, with deal or without a deal. If the government will be able to strike a deal with the EU, then it will affect the EU students in the UK. And they will continue their learning and work for UK’s economy. (James, 2016) analyzed the impact of deal and no-deal Brexit on the international students. He found the students feel sceptical about their stay in the UK after a no-deal Brexit. This can affect their learning ability. In return, it can affect their ability to play a part in the UK’s economy, which is highly dependent on the migrated labour force. And in the case of deal Brexit, the EU students feel confident in continuing their higher learning in the UK. Everything depends upon the UK government’s final decision on whether to go with a deal or a no-deal Brexit.

(LIGHT, 2017) work shows the Brexit question is not really the real issue; it just highlights a previous concern. However, the final Brexit agreement that Britain reaches with the European Union will certainly raise the pressure further, in addition to the shortage of expertise in any occupation and industry. Construction depends heavily on professional or semi-experienced personnel, and the issue of bringing the correct job may be a point-based scheme. This is further complicated by the current low opportunity for EU nations to participate in visa systems as a net importer of expertise. Whatever the result of the talks, EU migration to the United Kingdom will be reduced. This shows that the number of EU students coming to the UK will be less than the Pre-Brexit time with or without a deal. This will affect the skills of the EU people, and that, in consequence, will affect the construction sector of the UK. And according to (Broc 2020) Brexit will be affecting the higher education sector in the UK. The UK universities consist of a number of international academics, especially EU academics. Due to Brexit, these academics will be affected. That will affect the learning of these academics. The study shows that many universities in the UK have already started to make personal contacts with universities in the EU. So, after Brexit, they will still be able to take advantage of these academics across the EU. This will mitigate the effects of Brexit on the learning and skills of these academics. The stated work identifies the following problems caused by Brexit for international students, especially EU students: 1) The uncertainty caused by Brexit affects the returning decision of EU students, which will affect their learning; 2) The uncertainty about the new visa policy after Brexit has caused ripples among international students in the UK that can possibly affect their learning; 3) The possible change in the government’s attitude (providing educational support) towards international students can affect their learning and skills.

Solutions – Strategic Transitions

The Rationale for the Proposed Solution

As clearly mentioned, three main problems in the last section regarding the impact of Brexit on the skills of international students. This section will articulate solutions in a more general form rather than the solution of a specific problem. And it will also present a rationale for each of the proposed solutions. (UUKi, 2020) proposed the following recommendations for the employability of international students in the post-Brexit world. Firstly, recommendations for institutions: 1) Development of an institutional strategic framework to provide employability to international students in the post-Brexit UK; 2) Implementation of this framework with monitoring to provide fruitful results; 3) Working on the skills of graduates to enable them to work even in the post-Brexit UK; 4) Lifetime support for alumni of the particular institution to keep a check on their employability. Secondly, recommendations for sectors: 1) Provide additional training to international students to improve their skills; 2) In case of a no-deal Brexit, provide remote opportunities to international students up till the government allow them to come back, especially to the EU students; 3) Learn from other EU countries how to manage international resource and how to take full advantage of their skills by investing in them. Lastly, recommendations for the government: 1) Remain committed to the International Education Strategy and draw on the ambitious expectations for offering international students “a more attractive bid” and a “more accepting atmosphere.”, 2) Encourage foreign employers working with UK institutions via the government sector to find new career prospects for UK international graduates; 3) In case of no-deal Brexit, allow international employees to work from their home countries and, after ,some time allow them to come back to their positions. For (UUKi, 2020), the proposed solutions are self-explanatory. These solutions are enough to provide a rationale for themselves. Without the proper implementation of these solutions, international students will suffer for employability after Brexit. The proper implementation of these solutions will ensure employability for international students, especially EU students.

 (House of Commons Education Committee, 2017) also proposed solutions for the possible problems international students will face after Brexit: 1) The uncertainty among international students regarding their future in a post-Brexit world should be finished as soon as possible. They should get clarification about their status (fees, residence, employability, visa, and funding) after Brexit, especially EU students; 2) The immigration system should be altered according to the needs of higher education in the UK; as previously indicated, a large number of EU and non-EU students are part of higher education in the UK. So, if the policies wouldn’t be in-line with these students, then there would be a substantial loss of human resources in the UK; 3) The government should provide maximum support to the research and development of the international students, and programs such as Erasmus+ should be continued to provide maximum support to EU students. So, they can play a part in the UK’s economy. (House of Commons Education Committee, 2017) gave a rationale that, by following their proposed solutions, the government will ensure that the country’s higher education will overcome the problems raised by leaving the EU and be able to benefit from local and global opportunities. And in case of no steps taken by the government, the international students in a no-deal post-Brexit UK will suffer. Their education will be affected their skills as well, which will affect their employability.

Solutions – Creative Problem-Solving Methods

Specific Solutions to the Problems

In the previous section, there is a detailed discussion of the general solutions to the problems discussed in the first section. But in this section, the specific solutions to the problems will be discussed.

Problem 1: The uncertainty caused by Brexit affects the returning decision of EU students that will affect their learning

As recommended by (House of Commons Education Committee 2017), the government should finish the uncertainty among international students regarding their future in a post-Brexit world. They should get clarification about their status (fees, residence, employability, visa, and funding) after Brexit, especially EU students. This will help students to decide whether to continue their studies in the UK or not. If the government can maintain the statuses (fees, residence, employability, visa, and funding)  of these students before Brexit, it will help them continue their learning. And as the UK is part of Erasmus+, the UK government should allow EU students to complete their partner countries’ courses in their home countries.

Problem 2: The uncertainty about new visa policy after Brexit has caused ripples among international students in the UK that can possibly affect their learning

The government should provide immediate clarification about their visa policy to international students to calm them down. In case of their visa suspension, the universities should give remote education to the students. And it would be great if the government could allow those remote students to work in the UK after some time.

Problem 3: The possible change in the government’s attitude (providing educational support) towards international students can affect their learning and skills

The UK government should inform other governments whether their students will receive the funding or not. In case of suspension of funding, the host countries should provide funding. So those students can continue their studies.


This case study has presented the case of international students learning problems in the post-Brexit UK. It has identified the possible major issues that might be faced by international students and especially EU students, after Brexit. And on top of that, it has also presented general and specific solutions to problems faced by students due to the uncertainty of their states after a deal or no-deal Brexit. In a nutshell, this case study has highlighted significant problems faced by international students, especially EU students, and holistic solutions to tackle these problems. By reading this case study, readers can give a good idea of the situation of international students in the UK after Brexit. And ways through which those students can be helped.


Broc, K., 2020. Brexit and its impact on the UK Higher Education sector and the rights of scholars and students. UNIO–EU Law Journal, 6(1), pp. 31-50.

Dolton, P., Nguyen, D., Castellanos, M. & Rolfe, H., 2018. Brexit and the Health & Social Care Workforce in the UK. Report to the Cavendish Coalition. NIESR (forthcoming).

Falkingham, J., Giulietti, C., Wahba, J. & Wang, C., 2019. The Impact of Brexit on International Students’ Return Intentions.

Fowler, S., Direito, I., Mitchell, J. & Rich, J., 2018. The initial impact of Brexit on European students and academic staff in UK’s engineering higher education. In Proceedings of the 46th SEFI Annual Conference 2018. Creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship for engineering education excellence, Volume 46, pp. 190-197.

HESA, 2021. Higher Education Student Statistics: UK, 2019/20. [Online]

Available at: https://www.hesa.ac.uk/news/27-01-2021/sb258-higher-education-student-statistics

House of Commons Education Committee, 2017. Exiting the EU: challenges and opportunities for higher education, s.l.: House of Commons Education Committee.

James, C., 2016. Brexit: What now for Study Mobility between the UK and the EU. Pecs J. Int’l & Eur. L, p. p.7.

LIGHT, S., 2017. ARCADIS TALENT SCALE The real extent of Britain’s construction labour crisis A. [Online]

Available at: https://www.arcadis.com/media/4/B/9/%7B4B999107-2F44-42E2-94D7-43FDD0963378%7D9784_Talent%20Scale%20FINAL%20WEB_2102.pdf

Mohamed, M., Pärn, E. & Edwards, D., 2017. Brexit: measuring the impact upon skilled labour in the UK construction industry. International journal of building pathology and adaptation.

The Migration Observatory, 2021. Migrants in the UK Labour Market: An Overview. [Online]

Available at: https://migrationobservatory.ox.ac.uk/resources/briefings/migrants-in-the-uk-labour-market-an-overview/


Vargas-Silva, C., 2016. EU Migration to and from the UK After Brexit. Intereconomics, 51(5), pp. 251-255.

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