Key facts - UK further & higher education and the European Union

Higher education

EU research funding

Analysis from the Royal Society in 2015 found that the UK received €8.8 billion (£7.8 billion) of EU research funding between 2007 and 2013, in return for an estimated contribution of €5.4 billion.[1]

UK universities, companies and other organisations participated in more EU funded research and innovation projects (over 7500) than their counterparts from any other country during the first three years (2014-16) of the EU's Horizon 2020 programme.[2]

Four of the 10 of the most successful recipients of Horizon 2020 programme funding have been UK universities: UCL, Cambridge, Oxford and Imperial.[3]

EU students at UK universities

In 2016/17 there were 134,835 EU students studying in the UK, comprising 6% of the total student population in the UK. [4]

However, the numbers and proportion of EU students at UK universities varies considerably by institution, with universities in London, Scotland and Oxbridge having the highest percentage (the University of Aberdeen has the highest proportion at 19.2%). [5]

UK students studying abroad

Erasmus+ is a major EU programme for student and staff outward mobility, with around 50% of all UK students who go abroad choosing to do so through the Erasmus+ scheme.

The UK's participation in Erasmus+ has grown in recent years (albeit from a small base), with 15,645 students from UK universities spending a period abroad in 2015-16, up from 14,801 students in 2014-15.[6]

EU and international staff recruitment

EU staff represent 17% of the academic workforce in the UK. In the past decade, there has been an increase in recruitment, with approximately 40% of new academic jobs filled by EU nationals.[7]

Recent analysis of the initial impact of the referendum result on academic staff in UK HEIs found a reduction in the increase of non-UK EU nationals in general, and an actual decrease in those aged 34 or less, albeit from a high level.[8]

In terms of subject areas, the British Academy report that 36% of economists and 34% of those in modern languages come from EU countries other than the UK.[9]

Further education

European Structural Funds (ESF)

In 2014-5 colleges received £100 million in ESF income and £18 million in direct European grants. This represented almost 2% of total income, although the funding remains highly concentrated in a small number of FECs.[10]  

Erasmus+ schemes in FE

Since 2014, UK colleges have received around €43.5m for vocational projects through Erasmus+, supporting initiatives at over 100 colleges.[11]

The AoC have also identified '34,239 UK vocational mobilities' through Erasmus+ in the current funding cycle, with college student and staff participants accounting for half of these.[12]

EU and international staff recruitment

There is no firm data on the proportion of EU nationals working in FECs. However, the AoC have estimated that the total is around 7,000 people or 4% of the college workforce.[13]


[1] https://royalsociety.org/news/2015/12/UK%20research%20and%20EU/

[2] https://ec.europa.eu/unitedkingdom/news/horizon-2020-three-years-uk-tops-league-participants_en

[3] https://www.vsnu.nl/files/documenten/Nieuwsberichten/Who_are_the_champions_in_Horizon_2020v2.pdf

[4] https://www.hesa.ac.uk/news/11-01-2018/sfr247-higher-education-student-statistics/location

[5] http://www.researchcghe.org/perch/resources/publications/pb5.pdf

[6] https://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/policy-and-analysis/reports/Documents/2018/uuk-parliamentary-briefing-erasmus-backbench-debate-june-2018.pdf

[7] https://blog.hefce.ac.uk/2016/03/10/english-universities-reach-out-to-recruit-global-talent/

[8] http://www.researchcghe.org/publications/are-eu-university-academics-leaving-the-uk-because-of-brexit/

[9] https://www.britac.ac.uk/news/brexit-uncertainty-british-academy-publishes-risk-list-subjects

[10] https://www.aoc.co.uk/funding-and-corporate-services/brexit

[11] https://www.aoc.co.uk/funding-and-corporate-services/brexit

[12] https://www.aoc.co.uk/funding-and-corporate-services/brexit

[13] https://www.aoc.co.uk/funding-and-corporate-services/brexit

Last updated: 31 August 2018