April 2021

IZA DP No. 14247: International Student Applications in the United Kingdom after Brexit

revised version available upon request from the authors

On June 23, 2016, the people of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. We examine how this decision (henceforth, Brexit) has impacted international student applications in the United Kingdom. Using administrative data spanning from 2013 through 2019, along with a quasi-experimental approach, we find evidence of Brexit curtailing the growth rate of international student applications by 14 percent. The impact appears larger for applications to pursue STEM studies and for those received by more selective universities, suggestive of students with more alternatives choosing to study elsewhere. Furthermore, applications appear to have dropped the most among EU students originating from countries with weaker labor markets and economies for whom the ability to stay in the United Kingdom after their studies might have been a critical pull factor. Finally, the drop in applications has resulted into fewer international enrolments. Given the contributions of international student exchanges to research, development and growth, further research on the implications of Brexit for UK universities and the ability to attract valuable talent is well-warranted.