Brexit hubris? Over­seas stu­dents don’t think so

The Sunday Telegraph - - Zoe Strimpel -

The cen­tral axis of Re­mainer venom ap­pears to rest on a deep con­vic­tion that Bri­tain is a racist, clas­sist, un­equal, un­just and bro­ken place, with shame­ful delu­sions of grandeur. We were only too lucky to be hitched to that glo­ri­ous bloc over the Chan­nel known as the EU, and the hubris of our exit is go­ing to re­dound on us (is al­ready re­dound­ing!) in a thou­sand pain­ful cuts that will show how ar­ro­gantly silly we were to think we could sur­vive without the in­fi­nite wis­dom of Brus­sels.

So while it is hard to be sure that things will be peachy once we do leave the EU – what’s moan­ing and what’s a gen­uine worry? – I can’t help but take plea­sure in new sta­tis­tics that show Bri­tain is not quite the pa­thetic loser the in­can­des­cent Re­main lobby says we are.

Ac­cord­ing to Ucas fig­ures, the num­ber of over­seas can­di­dates who have ap­plied for places at our uni­ver­si­ties is not just strong, it is at record lev­els. That’s right, Bri­tain­haters: de­spite every­thing, in­clud­ing dire warn­ings from the higher ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor, our uni­ver­si­ties are at peak pop­u­lar­ity.

It’s re­ally not hard to see why. We’ve got Ox­ford, Cam­bridge, Durham, Ed­in­burgh, Birm­ing­ham, Manch­ester, the LSE, Im­pe­rial and the list goes on. Europe has… well, ex­actly.

Have you ever sat in on a con­fer­ence paper by some­one

from the Con­ti­nent? I have. In Bri­tain, we prize con­ci­sion, we fear bor­ing ev­ery­one by go­ing way over the time or word limit, and we try to make an ar­gu­ment. Not so our schol­arly friends from Spain, Italy and France. You may think you’re in for a 20-minute paper about 17th-cen­tury trav­ellers in the Mid­dle East. You’re ac­tu­ally in for a 40-minute waf­fle-fest about, well, it’s hard to say. If I could skip the ed­u­ca­tional cul­ture that pro­duces papers like those, I – like the 100,000 ap­pli­cants that have ap­plied for places at our uni­ver­si­ties this au­tumn – would cer­tainly do so.

Even EU stu­dents pre­fer us; the num­ber of ap­pli­cants from the bloc hav­ing in­creased by 3.4 per cent to 58,450 – up from a brief post-Brexit ref­er­en­dum dip. Those out­side the EU are keen tak­ers, too, with ap­pli­ca­tions from China and In­dia soar­ing.

What the Re­main­ers don’t seem to re­alise is that Bri­tain is re­ally pretty bril­liant com­pared with other places. Have they ever tried to deal with Ger­man red tape, or get any­thing done amid French strikes or Ital­ian cor­rup­tion, or work hard in max-tax Scan­di­navia, where peo­ple reg­u­larly refuse pro­mo­tions if they cut into hol­i­day time? Well, quite.

Tak­ing con­trol: our uni­ver­si­ties are draw­ing in for­eign ap­pli­cants

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