Chartered ABS Annual Survey results reveal early impact of Brexit on business schools

Image from Annul Survey 2016, credit Hull University Business School

We are pleased to share with you the results of our Annual Membership Survey. Designed to provide insights into the sector and emerging trends, this year’s results reveal the impact Brexit is already having on business schools and the wider university sector.

The survey shows that one in six business schools have reported an increase in the number of EU undergraduate applicants not turning up to start their studies for this new academic year. This is despite a majority of business schools receiving an increase in applications from prospective EU students prior to the EU referendum.

Download the Annual Membership Survey 2016 results here.

Business courses are the most popular at UK universities, so with business schools so important to university finances and local economies, as well as to the Government’s renewed emphasis on commercialising research, the impact of falls in admissions could be felt across the higher education sector and into the economy if these results are an indicator of what is to come. In 2015 there were 36,215 students from the EU studying business and management. With each student spending on average £21,833 each year on university fees and off-campus in their local area, these business students alone contribute nearly £800 million to the economy.

The survey results, published at the Chartered ABS Annual Conference, also reveal other worrying signs for UK universities. Since the EU referendum, 10% of business schools have already lost research partners or shelved planned bids for EU research funding, and a third expect to lose planned research funding from the EU and EU research partners within the next 12 months. 7% of schools have already lost valuable EU staff and 12% are reporting difficulty in attracting international talent from the EU.

In response to the findings, Professor Simon Collinson, Birmingham Business School and Chair of the Chartered Association of Business Schools said, “Generating an average income of £33 million each year, business schools are in effect multi-million pound businesses with tremendous export value and inward investment capabilities yet the Government is choosing to turn away our customers in pursuit of immigration targets which are flawed. But this isn’t just about finances - students from both the EU and beyond positively influence the cultural diversity of our campuses and, once graduated, they help the UK to build soft power around the world. Along with our international staff and the EU funding we receive, international students add value to the global education, knowledge and experience our programmes offer to all our students, which for now at least have global reputations.”

There were also some positive results which show business schools are working hard to adapt to challenging conditions. Many are diversifying their provision to adapt to an uncertain market and the changing demands of employers. A fifth of business schools are already offering higher apprenticeships with a further two-fifths planning to do so. Through apprenticeships, through working with STEM academics to commercialise their research, and through local economic initiatives such as the Small Business Charter, business schools are hoping to build on the £3.25 billion contribution they make to local areas and the national economy. The survey also found that after costs, business schools each contribute an average of £12.5 million per year to the universities in which they are based.

Anne Kiem, Chief Executive of the Chartered Association of Business Schools, challenged the Government to take advantage of the strength of UK business schools in its Brexit negotiations. She said, “We can’t change the outcome of the referendum but we need a good deal for universities from Brexit. The Government must now recognise the impact Brexit will have on business schools which will reverberate across our universities and into the economy. Universities and the business education we provide are a fantastic asset and a valuable export, bringing economic benefits and soft power. We need to work with Government on a solution that will allow our student populations to thrive, our internationally renowned research to continue to make impact, and our local areas and regions to benefit from those investments.”

The survey results received global coverage in the Financial Times (subscription required), the Independent and Times Higher Education.

Download the Survey Results