How the UK Education Sector might be affected by Brexit


Brexit is the short form for “British exit”, which refers to the decision made by the UK through the referendum of June 23, 2016, to exit the European Union.

Since this decisive vote, critical changes have happened in the United Kingdom and just by looking at the new PM’s first week in office we can see the following changes:

• The £ has dropped to a two-year low – bad news for holiday makers: if you’re traveling to Europe, you’ll now only get 1.09 Euros for £1 (as of the 30th of July 2019). Traveling to the US? Certainly, the better option with $1.22 for £1 – do that big shopping spree here.
• UK car investment dives down to 70% with uncertainty for car makers of what will happen to the market after a no-deal Brexit. UK car giant Aston Martin drops significantly in sales all over Europe.
• Northern Ireland and Ireland prepare to unite in case of a no-deal Brexit
• Local councils are trying to be ready for a no-deal Brexit by stockpiling supplies and preparing for disruption at main ports. Councils all over the UK are given £56.5 million Brexit funds by the Ministry for Communities, Housing and Local Government to deal with potential problems caused by a no-Brexit deal.

The economic and political changes that follow Brexit have also impacted the UK education sector. There are many questions as to what will happen to the current EU students in British schools or to the thousands of EU nationals that teach in Britain.

End of Movement Freedom

Under the law of the EU, there was free movement of services, capital, goods, and workers. The freedom of workers to move was amongst the key issues which underpinned the 2016 referendum leave vote. After leaving the EU, citizens of Britain will become “third-country nationals” and it means there is no automatic right of readmission. It is unlikely that British citizens will need to have the full visas in order to traverse borders of the EU, but it is likely that an online registration form will have to be completed before traveling and a €7 authorization travel fee to be paid upon arrival.

This will affect movement between the UK and the EU, not just for travelers, but also for EU students, teachers and lecturers.

Teaching Staff

The EU nationals that work and live in the UK will have to get further clarification on how their jobs will be affected, especially if the Brexit final outcome will mean having to relocate.

There is bilateral double taxation for employees in EU member states in place. In this agreement, the tax that is paid in the country one works is offset by the tax due in the country that one is a resident. If this is not resolved, many nationals of EU teaching in Britain may be forced to relocate.

Modern foreign language teaching in British schools will be impacted as a result of this Brexit-changes-for-travelers-and-international-students-and-workersbecause most teachers in these subjects like French, German, Italian, Spanish etc. come from EU member states. The Department of Education already finds it difficult to recruit enough teaching staff in Britain and this might make it harder.
Teaching Qualifications

Since 1997, Britain has recognized over 142,000 EU professional qualifications. Other member states recognized 27,000 UK qualifications. Such qualifications will continue to be recognized until December 2020 as pledged by the UK government. An “ambitious agreement” is yet to be reached by both governments on mutual recognition of the professional qualifications within their countries.

Rights and Recruitment of Workers in Education

Britain will continue to offer workforce protections and rights for teaching staff like holiday pay, annual leave, requirements of health and safety and legislation to avoid discrimination or/and harassment. The Department of Education missed its target of recruitment in five consecutive years and the current trend shows further teacher shortages will continue. It puts schools under pressures to deliver the best teaching and learning services they’re expected to fulfill.

Pupil numbers in independent schools

The latest census of the Independent Schools Council of 2019 revealed these findings:

“There are 28,910 overseas pupils, equating to 5.4% of all pupils [in independent schools in the UK]. Among the 26,370 non-British pupils whose parents live in the UK, 45% come from EEA countries, up three percentage points from last year.”

The extent of the pupils’ numbers being affected by Brexit will depend on the reaction of individual businesses and families, however, so far there is an increase in pupil numbers from EU and EEA countries in independent schools here.

A huge part of the families that are represented in UK independent schools are professionals of financial services. Different passport arrangements, cross-border trading and pension regulations might encourage them to relocate to the EU from London.

Whatsoever path Britain decides to take, it is important that all country leaders involved attempt to find solutions that will best prepare pupils, families, teaching staff, schools and universities on the substantial changes that lie ahead.