Non-EU agents feel bounce from post-Brexit weaker pound

The cheaper pound sterling following the UK's decision to leave the European Union has been generally positive for non-EU agents, although certain barriers remain and fears over safety are taking hold, StudyTravel Magazine has found.

Following StudyTravel Magazine's recent survey of EU-based agents examining the impact of the Brexit vote on business, this time we interviewed agents and associations in non-EU recruitment markets.


IDP Education, a higher education-focused agency chain with offices in 32 countries, told StudyTravel Magazine that placements for the UK increased by 36 per cent in the first half of the current financial year, compared with the same period in the previous year.


At the recent NAFSA 2017 International Conference and Expo, IDP released an update of its regular research on clients' perceptions of the five major English-speaking higher education destinations. In surveys conducted in late 2016, the UK still ranked lowest for affordability, although second highest for quality of education.


China is the largest market for the UK's higher education and secondary schools sectors. On the day of the EU referendum the pound was valued at 9.80 yuan, compared with 8.78 at the time or writing - a 10.4 per cent shift.


Wendy E, Director of Overseas Studies at ABG Education agency in China, told ST Magazine, "It did impact a little for the students to choose comparing with the expense in other countries." She added that the general level of education and the one-year master's system were enduring attractions.


At BOSSA (Beijing Overseas Study Service Association), International Consultant Jon Santangelo reported a mixed bag of business trends. "It seems that across the board, demand for higher education in the UK is down, but secondary and junior levels are up. We can't confirm if this is due to Brexit or the increasing rise in popularity of boarding schools and private secondary schools among Chinese parents. Some private schools are reporting exceeded quotas and can no longer take Chinese students."


On the day of referendum, one pound was valued at 100.31 Indian rupees and at the time of writing stands at 83.95. The shift that has gone a little way to arresting declines from the Indian higher education market, but regulatory issues remain.


Sonya Singh, Managing Director of SIEC agency, said, "There has been an increase in enquiries for UK recently, but not to the level that was expected. The market is still pretty dull. The lack of post-study work rights is the biggest negative for UK." Dr Paul Chellakumar, Patron of the Association of Accredited Advisors on Overseas Education (AAAOE), commented that sterling wouldn't cause a huge shift because of work rights, but said some students were pleased with the increased purchasing power in the UK. 


In Thailand, Annop Kanthatham, Director of York Institute agency and President of the Thai agency association TIECA, said the cheaper pound had positively impacted, with the baht worth 16 per cent more now.



"Since the Brexit vote, there was a slight increase in the number of students. Many students paid their fees soon after to take advantage of the weaker pound," Annop said.


"The effect could be seen very early on with the language sector, since it was all year round. For higher education, it was also a positive effect as well, since many Thai students go to the UK for postgraduate-level study and the number has been increasing every year even before the weaker pound."


Maura Leão, President/CEO of Yazigi Travel and President of Brazilian agency association Belta, reported, "There has been an increase in demand after the devaluation of pound sterling, mainly for language programmes. In Brazil, many students have the dream to go to the UK, and this has helped them go after this."


Similarly in Argentina, Gabriela Ardito, Founder and CEO of VCE International and President of the nascent Argentine Study Abroad Association (ARSAA), said, "The post-Brexit weak pound combined with great discounts offered by many UK schools really helped Argentine agents and consultants boost sales of study abroad programmes in the UK."


The Argentine peso gained around 14 per cent against the pound at the post-Brexit peak, although in the last two months it has returned to similar levels.


She added that the immigration policies and rhetoric of the Trump administration were pushing business towards other countries, including the UK. She said her agency had experienced high numbers of visa refusals for students intending to study in New York recently. "Those students had already booked their flight ticket and paid part of their tuition fee and accommodation, but had to cancel the trip. This does not happen in the UK."


Commenting on the effect of the referendum decision on perceptions of attractiveness and welcome, Annop said, "I don't think Thai students are aware of Brexit and the effect that it has." He added that they were more concerned about developments in the USA under President Trump.


Gabriela commented, "The [Argentine] students who may be concerned about Brexit are those of European descent who might be interested in pursuing a career in the UK, enjoying the benefits of holding an EU passport. The rest do not really feel affected by Brexit."


More cautiously, Maura said, "I believe people are concerned if this might change visa policies and that the country might not be as safe as it used to be."


Indeed, as with some agents in the EU in our recent article, the spectre of recent terrorist attacks in the UK is casting a shadow over business. Gabriela advised, "I have talked about this with the other Argentine agencies during the first ARSAA AGM in June; all agencies are undergoing a serious period of unrest and instability. Some have experienced last-minute cancellations, especially those involving junior students."


Asked what changes to regulations would make the UK more attractive overall in the Thai market, Annop replied, "Post-study work rights, cheaper fees and part-time work rights for students studying language courses."


With the same question, Gabriela commented that the Argentine agency business was growing generally and that bonds with agents needed to be tight. "If knowledgeable educational agents and consultants promote high-quality educational institutions on the basis of mutual loyalty and cooperation, nothing will stop the sustainable development of our business."



By Matthew Knott

News Editor