Cambridge University has told a parliamentary committee that it is preparing for the numbers of EU students admitted to its courses to drop by two thirds.
In written evidence to the House of Commons' education select committee's Brexit and higher education inquiry, Cambridge said that Brexit "poses a significant risk to higher education and research activities in the UK". Sudden changes to student visas and regulation could represent a "cliff edge" for British universities, they said, and could have a "sudden and damaging impact". Specifically, it said it was "currently modelling a two-third reduction in admissions from the non-UK EU".
A total of 190 universities, educational bodies, and businesses have submitted evidence to the inquiry. The Russell Group, an association of 24 of the most highly regarded British universities, wrote that since the Brexit vote, British research groups have been dropped from bids for European funding, and that overseas academics "deciding not to take up job offers or pursue job applications directly cite the Brexit vote as the reason for these decisions".
Other universities also expressed concern. University College London, in its submission, wrote that there will be a "reputational risk" to UK education if Britain and its universities become seen as less welcoming to overseas students and open to international collaboration. The London School of Economics said that the collapse of the pound since the referendum has made recruitment harder because British salaries are less competitive, and that a loss of access to EU funding and research networks could "significantly damage" the higher education sector. The University of Liverpool feared that a reduction in the number of EU students attending the university would "result in a major loss in diversity and talent, but also have serious financial impacts".
Continued access to the Erasmus exchange programme, whereby students from EU countries can go and study in others, was of particular importance to several universities, as was access to the Horizon 2020 research funding system.
Some universities said that there are potential opportunities. Cambridge suggested that if overseas students were removed from the immigration figures and the cost and difficulties of visa applications for staff posts were reduced, it could help "ensure that the UK is able to recruit the brightest and best students and academics from around the world".