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Brexit: Where there’s threat, there’s opportunity

By Dino Leo, Head of Education - Western Union Business Solution

At the time of writing, the United Kingdom parliament was entering into another round of Brexit confusion and delays, with no outcome yet in sight. In times of political and economic uncertainty, it would be understandable to view all potential outcomes with a degree of apprehension, but when the dust has settled, and the fog cleared, what will the international student landscape look like?

Whilst no-one yet knows what chairs will be free when the music stops, we do know that a major pillar of the Brexit agenda is control over immigration. Brexiteers argue that the UK’s immigration policy needs to be built with the UK’s needs at its heart, which could impact the number of international students coming to study in the UK.

If the findings of the APPG’s November inquiry report* are followed to any degree, then the post-Brexit outlook for the UK’s prospects as a destination country for international students could be in many respects reinvigorated. Amongst the recommendations of the report are:

  • Co-ordinated, clear messaging between government and the HE sector to the international student community.
  • An alumni strategy that will boost UK soft powers, research and trade, along with helping to attract the next generation of students.
  • A clear and ambitious strategy to be set for international student numbers, alongside a decoupling of students from net migration targets.
  • Tracking the value of education as an export and including it in the UK’s trade strategy when negotiating bi-lateral agreements.
  • To offer an attractive and clearly labelled post-study work visa for 2 years upon graduation.

A more targeted visa strategy, if applied without prejudice for any particular country (as was a stated aim of Brexit), could result in a rebound in the number of students who have found their route to study in the UK difficult in the last few years. The most obvious of these student markets is India.

At Western Union Business Solutions, we stand ready to support this market shift, with a truly global presence and a commitment to compliance that is unmatched in the international payments world. We have been able to build on our digital payments strategy in 2018 by becoming the first platform to offer NetBanking, one of four payment methods we now offer from India.

Rather than partnering with one international bank, we are connected with 8 of India’s largest domestic banks** and students are for the first time able to make their payments online in a single process, benefiting from the comfort and trust of using a familiar payment rail used for paying bills. What was once a payment option only available for domestic students is now available for international payments. This is another example of Western Union Business Solutions innovation - not just adopting a payment system, but building a whole new payment method.

Whilst the coming weeks and months will be clouded with uncertainty, by focussing on those outcomes of Brexit that can be predicted with a degree of certainty, perhaps silver linings can ultimately be discerned. We look forward to being able to support the UK HE sector in navigating the new realities it will face in 2019 and beyond.

Dino Leo is the Head of Education at Western Union Business Solutions. Any views expressed are an opinion only. They do not represent the views of Western Union and should not be relied upon.

*A Sustainable Future for International Students in the UK – November 2018 – All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Students Inquiry Report - http://www.exeduk.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/APPG-Report-FINAL-WEB-1.pdf 

**Participating banks include HFDC Bank, ICICI Bank, Axis Bank, Kotak Mahindra Bank, Yes Bank, Punjab National Bank, RBL, and South Catholic Bank