EU students turn to Germany as a top study destination in light of Brexit

Tamsin Paternoster
Tamsin Paternoster - [email protected]
EU students turn to Germany as a top study destination in light of Brexit
Students taking their exams in Kassel on Wednesday. Photo: DPA

For years, the UK has been a sought-after study destination for EU students. But a sudden spike in fees expected post-Brexit means they’re shifting their attention elsewhere - namely Germany and the Netherlands.


New research from shows that UK universities may lose 84 percent of EU students to continental European universities, with Germany at the forefront of alternative study destinations.

For EU students studying in the UK, Brexit could mean a sudden increase in British university fees of between 75 and 125 percent for some courses for the academic year starting in 2021, as well as lost access to public student loans.

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In light of this, Germany has already emerged as a popular choice for EU students looking for alternative options.


"Various factors make Germany a particularly attractive destination for students: high-quality education and research; the fact that tuition is free at almost all public universities; high standards of living at moderate cost; and the promising career perspectives with, for non-EU students, and the welcoming post-study work visa conditions," Gerrit Blöss, CEO of, told The Local.

Lost 'Home' fee status

Last week the UK government announced that, following Brexit, students from the EU would lose their right to their ‘Home’ fee status in England starting the year 2021/22, as well as public student loans.

For now, the announcement applies to England, with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland having yet to announce their own plans. 

Currently, EU students pay a total of £9,000 per year to study at English universities. 

Universities on the continent in countries like the Netherlands, France and Germany have already been increasing the number of English-taught courses since the Brexit referendum of 2016. 

Archive photo shows students at the Technical University of Aachen. Photo: DPA

A survey of 2,505 respondents showed that, behind only the Netherlands, Germany has emerged as a top destination for EU students who were previously considering studying in the UK.

The number of international students in Germany was 393,579 as of winter semester 2018/19. In 2018/19 374,600 international students were enrolled in German universities. Western Europeans comprise 19 percent of students abroad in 2018/19, the second largest group of non-German students after the Asia and Pasific region. 

With 36 percent of respondents choosing Germany as a study destination, UK universities are set to lose 84 percent of EU students in total due to the shift in tuition fees.

Universities in the UK rely on tuition fees charged from students coming from abroad.

Adding to an already critical situation in attracting international students because of the coronavirus pandemic, Blöss told The Local that “most universities have been overhauling their marketing and recruitment campaigns for a while. After all, the announcement did not come unexpectedly.’’

New UK campuses in Europe

In addition to further campaigning for British universities to attract lost EU students, Blöss expects to see a surge in UK universities opening branch campuses in continental Europe.

Institutions such as Lancaster University Leipzig, which is seeing its first student intake this September, offer university degrees taught in English in Germany. 

The university will take advantage of the fact that Germany allows international students to work in the country for two years after graduation.

Germany is desperate to attract skilled workers to fill vacancies across several sectors so students being trained up in the country is an advantage.

READ ALSO: International students: How to apply for new interest-free loans in Germany

Meanwhile the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), which handles internationalisation in German higher education institutions, has shifted its strategy to include focusing on the success rather than just recruitment of international students 

The question remains how, with an expected surge in international applicants, German universities and support networks for international students such as the DAAD will choose between applicants. 


Blöss also expects that private, fee-paying universities in Germany will benefit from the changing situation in the UK as students who had already expected to pay moderate fees in the UK will now look to Germany. 

In addition, applicant competition is expected to increase for tuition-free programmes at German public universities, meaning that students will look to private universities as an alternative.


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