BREXIT (and JEXIT)

Having won the general election with a comfortable majority the Tories will now be able to (yes, that’s right) get Brexit done. We shall have to wait and see how this pithy slogan impacts the wider economy but we can perhaps begin to speculate what some of the consequences might be for the language teaching industry in the UK. Let’s think in terms of the questions some people might ask:

Will it be more difficult for European nationals to take a language course in the UK? In the short-term, obviously not, as nothing will change during the transition period, which is scheduled to last at least until the end of 2020. Beyond this period change is possible although the likelihood is that European nationals will continue to be welcomed, both as short-term visitors and as longer-term students as it would make no economic sense to pull up the drawbridge. That said, it is unlikely that European nationals who haven’t obtained permission to stay in the UK before the end of the transition period will be allowed to stay indefinitely, as is currently the case, unless of course they score enough points on the new as yet to be defined Australian-style immigration system.

Will it be more expensive to study in the UK? The pound jumped a few percentage points against both the Euro and the US dollar as soon as the election exit poll was published, so the immediate answer to the question is ‘yes, a little’. How the pound and the UK economy as a whole behave over the longer-term will clearly depend on a whole range of factors, including the future trade agreements that have as yet to be negotiated with the EU, the USA and the rest of the world. Speculating what the outcome of those negotiations is likely to be is way too difficult.

Will European nationals (and others) be put off studying in the UK (or perhaps we should say England) by the perception (true or false) that a majority of British nationals are fed up with having quite so many foreign visitors? This sort of perception could conceivably put some people off, in the same way that some people might be dissuaded from visiting other parts of the world where a significant number of the local inhabitants complain about the volume of foreign visitors perceived to be invading their cities, pushing up prices in their neighbourhoods, filling their streets with souvenir shops, and so on. However, so long as the experience of people studying in the UK continues to be overwhelmingly positive, there is no reason to suppose that any negative perceptions generated by Brexit will last forever.

As for the rather less significant issue of Jexit (see previous post on the subject) I have also been very keen to ‘get it done’ for the passed 18 months or so. I’m pleased and relieved to be able to say that my previous business partners and I finally signed an agreement in November. In essence, this involved a share swap: my partners acquired the shares I owned in our language schools in Spain while I acquired the shares they held in our schools in Mexico, Colombia and Northern Ireland. So it was, in the end, a relatively soft Jexit and we can now all get on with our lives.  Let’s hope the consequences of Brexit are equally benign.

2 comments

  1. Thanks Jonathan for an excellent blog, as usual, I have listed a just a few points on Brexit’s possible impact below:

    Inward mobility ie students to the UK (both Language and HE)
    A study in April by QR reinforced that the UK’s pending exit from the European Union continue to have an impact on the country’s attractiveness to foreign student. This effect is especially pronounced among EU students, with nearly four in ten saying that Brexit makes it less likely that they would choose to study in the UK. A major factor remains how welcoming the UK is perceived to be for international students, and the study highlights that this can be heavily influenced by government policy. I have only this month had direct experience of a Swiss FE institution career officer advising their students not to do a summer course in the UK because they will not be welcome.

    Outward mobility i.e. students to the UK (both Language and HE)
    1. Added administration e.g. visas etc.. will add to complexity for schools and individuals in organising study trips from the UK to European countries to learn French, Spanish etc.. Couple this with…
    2. Brexit is impacting on pupil motivation in schools in the UK, while parents think languages are ‘of little use’ as the country is leaving EU. Parent and student attitudes, as well as concerns about the future recruitment of language teachers caused by Britain leaving the EU, are highlighted in the British Council’s “Language Trends Report 2019” published recently. This report based on evidence from 1,600 teachers who were contacted earlier this year, says “respondents report that Brexit has cast a pall over languages.”. This affects not only the numbers of students learning Modern languages but also study abroad trips from schools, student exchange and recruitment/supply of teachers both outwardly and inwardly.
    Teachers
    1. Language schools in Europe could well see the supply of teachers start to dry up as the traditional short term Post Grad teacher coming over for a year or two’s experience diminishes or dissapears as a viable resource leading to more opportunities for non-native teachers and anincrease in value of native speaking teachers, as they become more of a premium. Possible changes to contracts from temporary (Sept to June) to fixed contracts as schools try to hold on to a diminishing pool of native teachers who may very well decide they are financially better of going self-employed.

    2. Likely associated drop in Teacher training courses as teaching English becomes less attractive due to work visas etc for Europe.

    3. State schools who have partnered with the BC and local Governments to offer bilingual education and very much rely on recently graduated English teaching assistants coming over to support their programmes will see all this dry up unless new agreements are drawn up. same for International schools.

    Exams will see an increase in demand for IELTS general for people who wish to work or settle in the UK and IELTS Academic UKVI for european nationals who wish to study pre graduate courses in the UK. Less work opportunities in the UK and reduced influence of the UK in European business could see a drop in demand for general suite exams.

    In FE, as a result of transnational educational agreements between UK and foreign Universities we are seeing an increase of “in country” undergraduate degrees being offered in the English medium and acompanied with UK accredited degrees. These two drivers (taught in English and with UK validation) coupled with far cheaper tuition costs (Brexit could likely see EU students becoming classed as “international students” and suffering accordingly in increased tuition fees and visa requirements) and not having to pay added living costs.

    The diapsrity in population between the UK (66.4 million) and Ireland (4.8 million) means prevents Ireland from becoming a quick fix to the issues at hand and the disingenuity in that Brexit will now quite likely be done does hides the fact it will quite likely drag on for quite a substantial amount of time with all the uncertainty and increased concerns that will accompany which means that all the issues raised here will grow steadily more concerning unless the BC and interested associations step in to ensure some stability is offered to the situation.

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