Alumni of the Royal College of Art in London don’t just include James Dyson and Jasper Morrison, but also Konstantin Grcic, Peter Schreyer and Stefan Sielaff. The UK has previously been an appealing country in which to study design and has been popular with up-and-coming German designers. According to a report by the UK government’s Department for Education and data from the UK Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), the number of students from the European Union applying to study art and design in the UK has fallen by more than half compared to last year. Applications from the EU fell by 52% from 22,860 in 2020 to just 10,940 this year. By contrast, applications from the rest of the world rose by 7% from 26,680 to 28,530. There were 256,420 applications in total, which was a slight increase compared to 2020, as the pandemic had caused a small decrease in the number of students for 2020 compared to 2019, and more UK students applied this year.

Jeremy Till, head of London art and design school Central Saint Martins and Pro Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Arts London, told Dezeen that the fall in EU applications was undoubtedly due to Brexit, which came into force on 1 January this year. He added: “The fact that EU students now have to pay fees at the higher international level and are no longer eligible for loans is certainly putting off prospective students.” Since Brexit, students from EU countries are no longer eligible for home fees status, meaning they now have to pay higher fees than UK students. They also have to apply for a student visa costing GBP 348 using the UK’s new points-based immigration system, as well as pay a GBP 470 surcharge upfront to access the country’s free healthcare system. After graduation, EU students will need to apply for a graduate visa to grant them permission to stay and look for employment for up to two years.

In 2016, the Council for Higher Education in Art & Design warned that Brexit “may have a significant impact on staff and student recruitment, competitiveness and prestige of UK creative higher education and creative industries at a time when global competition in these areas is likely to increase steeply”. A report by the UK government’s Department for Education published in February 2021 estimates that Brexit could cost universities up to GBP 66.5 million in fee income as EU student numbers dropped. Further impacts of Brexit on the UK’s creative industries include small design firms relocating their production abroad to reduce costs and UK architecture qualifications losing automatic recognition in EU countries.

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