What Brexit will mean for musical Britain (2)

The impact on our conservatoires and orchestras will be devastating, decimating. Quite apart from the issues we have raised already about border controls.

Today, the Guidhall School of Music and Drama points out that 42 of the 109 students in its orchestra come from countries in the European Union. They pay the same £9,000 fee as UK students to study at the conservatoire.

A Brexit vote in the June 23 referendum on 23 June could jeopardise this happy arrangement. EU students at conservatoires and universities across the UK may be required to pay as much as other foreign entrants, at least £30,000. EU students would stop coming to Britain. Professors and teachers would be laid off. Departments and whole universities will shut.

guidhall Orchestral-Artistry-2015


Professor Barry Ife, Principal of the Guildhall School, says; ‘The Guildhall School has over 200 students from the EU and we benefit greatly from their talent and enthusiasm. Brexit would deprive them of access to the student loans scheme and their ability to study here would be put at risk. We need talented young international students to keep our world-leading provision fresh and vibrant. And we need to stay connected in an interconnected world.’

There are approximately 125,000 EU students studying at UK universities, making up 5% of the student population. At conservatoires the figure is generally much higher – at the Guildhall School, 19% of the total student body come from the EU. According to analysis by Universities UK, EU students in London also generated £798.9m for the regional economy and 7,580 jobs.




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  • What Brexit would mean for Britain (3): we could stop Angela Gheorghiu at the borders.

    In fact, we could have an Australian ‘operatic points’ system: this year we need more Italian Verdi baritones; next year Mexican tenori di grazia; etc etc.

    One rather more serious point: I don’t really think we are short of non-EU citizens in the operatic world, so why should Britain leaving the EU make a dime of difference? They seem to manage to get here, and work here, without undue difficulties.

    The student (i.e. not yet professional) angle is more problematic, for the above reasons. But why should it be that non-UK EU students are given preferential treatment over the talent from Commonwealth countries? I’m not sure I see Hungarians or Greeks as intrinsically more worthy of this subsidy than Kiwis and Canadians.

    • There are pretty good music schools in Canada, etc. The problem as I see it is for EU countries where the talent is better than the music school offerings. It’s UK’s gain to have that talent. Of course there are other good music schools in EU – so they might instead go somewhere else.

      • There are tonnes of great music schools in Europe..many of them better than what the UK offers.

  • Desr: the problem is that while UK won’t attract more non EU students (at £30K fee) than it already does with its own made immigration system, EU students will just go to other EU institutions, rather than facing all the addedd visa requirements and steep fees increases, therefore leaving UK at a net loss. The visa requirements for non EU students are a self made problem by the UK alone, not a requirement from EU. UK alone chooses to restrict non EU people (and talents) from non EU countries. Those non EU students and musical talents already go also in other EU countries, but without the hassle of the very strict UK visa regime (for example no recognition of the right of joining families, etc). Another point is: a Uk student will lose the right to freely study and make experience in EU countries (in music terms: will find equally more restrictive to join experience in music-fond EU countries like Austria, Germany, Italy and Spain. For a start the Erasmus programmes will no longer apply to UK students).

  • And the other problem might be the cost for UK students of studying in the EU. Much of the EU has cheaper higher education than the UK (our major virtue being the English language) and UK students have access to those. Would that remain the same after Brexit? Presumably not.

  • OK, so who subsidises the fees of EU students who come to study in the UK?

    The UK government directly or the EU directly? Or the UK indirectly via the EU?

    The shortfall must come from somewhere, and in theory this could therefore be money that could be re-directed post-Brexit, to level the playing field as between the EU and non-EU countries. OR am I missing something?

    Now a system which relies on national governments not cutting or raiding such budgets might be suspect, and susceptible to short term pressures or whatever.

    Britain’s farmers are similarly worried that after Brexit, money no longer ‘sent’ to the EU would never make it back to them if first trousered by the UK government. And spent on other things.

    I think these situations may be roughly comparable. In other words, keep the current system because you don’t trust elected national governments not to screw the arts.

    Am I right?

  • I agree with Norman’s general point, but claiming that “Departments and whole universities will shut” seems a bit excessive, doesn’t it?

  • Desr has a point. It isn’t quite correct for the Guildhall to ‘point out’ that EU students ‘pay the same £9000 fee’ as home students. No home or UK student pays (or need pay) a penny up front. What happens is that the UK Treasury pays the music college (or university) £9,000 p.a. for each home or EU student who is enrolled. To be sure, each student promises to repay the Treasury his or her total fee (with interest) in the future. But the higher fees came in only four years ago, and it remains to be seen what proportion of those promises end up being kept.

    • Ah Mercurius… Welcome back. Thought you were dead etc.

      If you are as well placed to comment on this things, as was Hugh Trevor Roper all those years ago as ‘Mercurius Oxoniensis’, then surely you know whereof you speak.

      By logical extension, can we take it that you are head of the RAM or the RCM then, or one of their senior professors??

      • The late Lord Dacre of Glanton never publicly owned to being my Oxford correspondent. In these matters, discretion is advised.

        You may, though, be assured that my work has forced me to learn more than any sane person would wish to know about the current funding arrangements for students in England.

    • At the moment is seems around two-thirds of the money is repaid (but rather less for EU students not from the UK). It is rather likely, if Brexit happens, that there will be an agreement about the free movement of people between Britain and the EU, and this will cover students studying abroad (although it is rather unlikely that the British government will cover their fees).

      Nevertheless two points:

      1. Universities could agree not to charge EU students £30,000 but to continue to charge £9,000 (or some other intermediate amount).

      2. Universities will raise as much money if they charge £30,000 to each student as long as one-third of the students still come.

  • Desr: EU students pay either from their own money or subsidized by their own countries. There is also another factor to consider. EU students while studying in UK they spend money (accomodation, buying goods, social events, etc). Losing those students UK also will lose these other advantages (tune of volume of expenditure of £3.7 billion – in London alone this is up to £800 million). The money UK will save from the EU in brexit (0.6% of the entire UK budget as stated by the pro-brexit John Redwood in a recent article) will need to be redirected to everything else, but most likely just to further fund the agenda of deficit reduction. So, do not espect any extra money coming to education to fill the big hole that will be left (OK, not the entire £3.7billion but a good portion of it, yes).

  • People seem to be forgetting that not only will we lose out from importing talent from EU countries but many students will not have the opportunity to study in Europe like they can today. Germany, for instance, is a great attraction for many UK students and the opportunity to study there will be lost unless you can afford it through the bank of Mummy and Daddy. Do we really want to destroy these opportunities for our young musicians? BTW DESR. We are talking about musicians not Opera Singers

  • Hmm, this must be why most UK music colleges have for some years now been taking an increasing proportion of students from the Far East – and sending delegations to China, South Korea and Taiwan to advertise and recruit. I’m not aware of them setting up trade stalls in Vienna or Paris. True, no-one likes to upset a cosy (and lucrative) status quo but as with so much of this debate, the pro-“In” arguments blithely ignore the actual direction in which the world is moving.

  • Many years ago during the Thatcher years I was a university lecturer in an internationally renowned (non-musical) institution in the UK. We had a substantial number of excellent overseas students who were handpicked by a competitive process and who, over the years, had returned to their home countries taking our positive reputation with them, and I think also spread a positive message about the UK generally.

    Then in 1981 or thereabouts the government massively increased tuition fees for overseas students while simultaneously cutting the direct funding to the academic institution with an explicit message that the funding shortfall should be made up from increasing the overseas students’ fees. At a stroke we lost some excellent people, but we also found we had no choice but to take students on the basis of whether they could pay the fees rather than whether they were actually any good or not. Many were now sponsored by foreign governments who we were told would pay the fees. It’s not hard to imagine what happened next – the overall academic standard of the students was almost indescribably and depressingly low ( I know, I was one of their teachers) and then subsequently I was told that the particular foreign governments turned out to be very bad debtors! So it was pretty disastrous. The follow-up however is that I moved on to other things but I understand over a long period of time there was a gradual recovery. The fact that such a recovery occurred is held up by Thatcherphiles as an example of how she was right all the time, though they seem to overlook the possibility that things might be even better now if that massive setback hadn’t occurred.

    So this story fills me with a sense of dread. It’s particularly worrying because I think that the sort of scientific academic work that I was involved with in those days is at least recognised as fairly important by even the most bone headed politicians, whereas I despair at their inability to grasp the vital significance of music and music instrumental education for us a a society, let alone for our place in the world, so there’s no-one watching our backs now.

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