Wales politics

'Fewer EU students expected in Wales after Brexit'

Cardiff University vice-chancellor Colin Riordan
Image caption Cardiff University vice-chancellor Colin Riordan believes the UK's universities will adapt post-Brexit

It is expected fewer EU students will come to Wales post-Brexit, the vice-chancellor of Cardiff University has said.

Prof Colin Riordan said higher fees and the inability to access loans will "probably" lead to a decline.

But he thinks Welsh universities "will be able to adapt" by replacing EU students or restructuring.

Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies said Brexit was a chance to bring more money into higher education.

The latest figures show applications from EU students to Welsh universities has fallen after several years of growth.

There were 4,400 applicants for 2017, compared to 4,920 for courses starting last year.

But the latest figure is still higher than 2015 when 4,040 EU students applied to universities here.

'Changing circumstances'

Prof Riordan, who is also chair of Universities Wales, told the BBC Wales Today programme Brexit was a "shock" but the higher education sector has "accepted" it.

"All EU students, once we leave the EU, will no longer have the ability to access the same conditions that UK students, and that means in our case Welsh students, can.

"They'll be paying higher fees, they won't be able to get a student loan.

"That makes me think that probably fewer of them will come."

But he said Welsh universities were now "very adaptable institutions".

"Student numbers have gone up and down over the years," he added.

"We've been around a long time and I'm sure that universities in Wales and across the UK will be able to adapt to changing circumstances."

Prof Riordan said universities will have to find ways of replacing those students or restructure.

There were 5,460 EU students at Welsh universities in 2015/16, around 3.7% of the total.

Image caption Andrew RT Davies remains unconvinced Brexit will spell a fall in university applications from the EU

Andrew RT Davies said he was not convinced EU applications would continue to fall and Brexit was a chance to bring more money into Welsh higher education.

He added: "There's a great opportunity here to market the positive aspects of Welsh universities.

"The research base facilities we've got are second to none.

"We've got a great academic experience here and we've got a great student experience.

"Instead of trying to talk this down let's talk it up as a great opportunity to bring more money in to the HE sector here in Wales and I'm confident we can do that."

Prof Riordan said that EU students may be seen as more valuable in the future, adding: "Those that do (come to Wales) will obviously bring in more revenue per student to the university.

"So, in that sense, perhaps they could become more valuable to Welsh universities."

  • For more watch Wales Today on BBC One Wales at 18:30 GMT on Monday 13 March.

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