Molly has blamed Brexit for a steep decline in the number of international students coming to study in the UK; a decline being particularly acutely felt by Bournemouth’s language schools.
A fall by almost 20% of foreign students coming to study in Bournemouth and Poole last year has cost the local economy an estimated £60m. Bournemouth’s largest Language School, Anglo Continental, suggested that their own student numbers had fallen by 800 last year, representing a drop in revenue of £1 million. However, the decline in student numbers is occurring across the UK, with schools blaming concerns over whether the government will impose visa restrictions on students coming from the EU, who made up more than 60 per cent of international students in 2015. Molly said:
“Far from being the global and outward looking nation that Theresa May seems to think Brexit will make us, there is a growing perception that the UK is unwelcoming to foreign students. This combined with uncertainty about what will happen post-Brexit and a difficult-to-navigate visa system is driving foreign students to more welcoming destinations.
“The message to students is clear: we are not open for business, and this is having a hugely negative impact on the economy of places like Bournemouth that have always been so welcoming to students.
“Last year, shortly before the referendum, a Universities UK report showed that EU students at UK universities contributed £3.7bn to the economy. During the referendum campaign, I stood on a platform of free movement; our universities and international schools benefit hugely from the free movement of students, not just economically, but socially too.
“I am determined to do all I can to defend the rights of young people across the EU to continue to enjoy freedom to travel, study and work across Europe. I want the UK to continue to welcome them for the important economic, social and cultural contribution they make to society.”
Ahead of the referendum, Bournemouth West MP Conor Burns, blamed declines in foreign student numbers on the UK’s EU membership; something disputed by Molly at the time. She says that the recent decline suggests the opposite; that the fall in students is actually due to the UK’s plans to leave the EU.