This week at NUS National Conference student leaders voiced support for the ‘IN’ campaign in the EU Referendum. The government have spent 9Million on an ‘In Campaign’ to communicate to the UK why we should stay ‘IN’. However, my mum (her name is Lin for reference) is all for the ‘OUT’ campaign, with some pretty surprisingly good arguments as to why we should leave. I haven’t personally made my mind up, but naturally the place to start is the impact on students.

Nearly half of EU students come from the five leading sending markets in Europe: Germany (13,675), France (11,955), Ireland (10,905), Italy (10,525), and Greece (10,130). With Britain in the EU, those students are treated as domestic students. In the event of a Brexit, UK universities would be entitled to charge EU students larger fees, and supports such as student loans and Erasmus would fall away.

Universities UK article on how much EU students contribute towards the economy is really interesting, there is a huge amount of benefit to the UK by being in Europe from a student mobility perspective.

However… rather than just convincing voters on the ‘economic benefits’ of EU students, what about convincing EU students to still come and study in the UK after what is bound to be a highly covered, controversial and at times off-putting Brexit campaign?

We’re already seeing many students from India choose countries like Canada and Australia over the UK as a study destination, could we see a similar shift where competitor markets will be taking EU students? Regardless of the outcome, there will inevitably be negative perceptions of the UK following the IN and OUT campaigns. We aren’t going to lose 125,000 EU students (whom make up 5% of total enrolments in the UK) in the event of a Brexit overnight, but we can all pre-empt many negative, hostile messages that are bound to surface in the media. Universities need to prepare for this no matter what the result to ensure they are seen as open, welcoming, accepting institutions.

We want EU students to feel excited and welcome to study in the UK, so lets just say there’s a lot of work we need to do nationally and individually in the run up and after the 23rd of June to ensure that is still the case, regardless of the result