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Brexit boost for numbers of students from Europe?

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MORE foreign students could be attracted to Jersey to learn English post-Brexit if exchange rates fall, but the Island being perceived as anti-European is a concern, the head of the Island’s language school has said.

Sid Brown at St Brelade's College

Each year more than 2,500 overseas pupils come to the Island for English lessons at St Brelade’s College, the vast majority of whom come from the EU, in particular France, Germany, Belgium, Italy and Spain.

With less than 100 days until Britain is due to leave the EU, it is still unknown whether an exit deal will be agreed concerning matters such as Customs controls, visas and travel rights.

St Brelade’s College principal Sid Brown said that the uncertainty of Brexit was an ‘issue’ for the business but he was confident that it would cope with any changes.

He added that in the short term more students could be attracted to the Island if the pound weakened against the Euro, as expected, but he was concerned about the ‘perception’ of Jersey as a welcoming place in the long term. ‘I don’t think that we will end up seeing visas introduced for students from the EU.

‘We have students from Japan and they don’t need visas, so I can’t see pupils from somewhere like France needing to,’ he said.

‘We currently don’t have a huge number of visa students, and the paperwork from our side is reasonably minimal. On the student side it’s quite thorough, depending on where they are coming from, and expensive.’

He added: ‘What we might get in the short term is a boost in the number of students, if the exchange rates go down again and it becomes cheaper to come to Jersey.

‘But what some language schools are worried about is the negative perception of the UK as a friendly place to visit. I know in Jersey we are viewed as a bit different and more continental, but it is possible that perception could apply to us also.’

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Mr Brown added that he was also worried that inflation could be driven up post-Brexit, due to exchange rates increasing the cost of imports and disruption to supply chains if Customs barriers were introduced, which could make the Island less attractive for visitors.

‘The cost of living is already very high in Jersey, so I am concerned that if it goes up any more it might make it difficult to compete with schools elsewhere and to attract students here,’ he said.

‘Inflation is already a concern. It was around 4½ per cent last year.’

Ian Heath

By Ian Heath
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