Brexit hitting business school recruitment of EU students and staff – Chartered ABS Annual Survey results

The Chartered ABS annual survey of business schools, released today, shows that applications from the EU to study business at British universities have fallen as a direct consequence of Britain’s decision to leave the European Union.

The results reveal that 40% of UK business schools have seen a decline in applicants from the EU to their undergraduate business courses. One in five schools reported an increase in the number of successful applicants from the EU failing to turn up at the start of this academic year.

Download the results of the Annual Chartered ABS Membership survey here.

A perfect storm?

Business students from the EU are estimated to contribute £1.3billion to the UK economy each year through course fees and off-campus spending[i]. Despite £119million of the total going straight to universities in course fees, a third of business schools have reported their overall revenues have stopped growing or fallen in the last 12 months.

Professor Simon Collinson, Chair of the Chartered ABS, is concerned that the trends in student recruitment could prove a tipping point for university finances. “The high numbers of business students are a key source of revenue for universities and business schools produce research vital to unlocking Britain’s productivity.

“We are facing the prospect of a fall in EU students coinciding with the freeze on student fees and the longer-term threat of European universities recruiting the international students that underpin our finances. We must avoid this perfect storm pushing business school finances over the edge and causing damage to our universities.”

Brexit uncertainties for EU staff

Business schools are also witnessing an impact on their ability to recruit and retain highly-qualified business academics from the EU. Not only have one in six member schools already lost EU staff, a quarter are struggling to recruit new staff from the EU, who are essential to preparing business students to work in an international business environment.

Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive of Universities UK, said: “This survey highlights the increasingly urgent need to provide clarity on the future visa regime for European staff and students and the rights of current EU nationals working at our universities.

“The UK Government must ensure that the UK continues to welcome, with minimal barriers, talented EU staff and students. EU students and staff make an enormously important contribution to UK universities and our business schools. We have to make them feel welcome here, or risk losing them to competitor countries.”

Business schools' ability to diversify

Chartered ABS members are drawing on the very expertise they teach by seeking to adapt and do ‘business’ elsewhere. Since the EU referendum 40% have already secured research partners outside of the EU and 60% are targeting new student markets outside of EU. In the UK, half of business schools are already offering or plan to offer apprenticeships at degree and Master’s levels.

The Chartered ABS too are encouraging business schools to respond proactively to the threats they face from national policy, global trends and shifting students’ expectations. Today, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Chartered ABS, the association have published ‘Rethinking Business Education: Fit for the Future’.

The book features thought-provoking articles from Sir Martin Sorrell, founder and CEO of WPP; Carolyn Fairbairn, director general of CBI; Lord David Willetts, former universities minister; and esteemed business school minds and successful entrepreneurs.

Rethinking Business Education: Fit for the Future can be downloaded here.


[i] Estimate calculated using the economic values of EU students calculated by Universities UK & Oxford Economics, October 2017,