London Student

How international students can benefit from Brexit

I came to England a touch late to experience the full on horror felt by many in the immediate aftermath of Brexit. People weren’t sobbing in the streets or sacking their local Tescos anymore. That pervasive sense of dread I feel every day is, I’ve been told, just what London is usually like.

But the dust has settled and people are moving on with their lives. There’s a new normal, where previously horrific and unthinkable things have now become part of the discourse – which is bad because humans coping tend to forget that there are better ways to be. It’s the same reason parents want to limit the type of hardcore porn available to their spermy teenage boys.

But Brexit isn’t all bad, not for me at least. Aside from a weepy British girlfriend, the effects of Brexit have been largely irrelevant. I never had free movement, I don’t have a job in the banking sector, and I will never ever eat Marmite. But price hikes and job losses will affect us all – even if their immediate impacts are difficult to define for many of us. Let me put it this way: those betrayed by Brexit are unlikely to blame themselves. I foresee more demonization of immigrants and refugees, and less outward thinking globalism in the years to come.

However there is one way in which it benefits us international students, as we come to this country’s fantastic tertiary education system. 1/8th of university income is given by international students, and we usually pay up to 50% more than our indigenous comrades. My MSc will cost me approximately £15,000, all told – a massive burden I’m willing to spend to study in what is the capital of the world (at least according to one sign I saw when I was leaving Heathrow). This makes the government’s plan to demonise international students somewhat confusing to say the least.

When I first came to England for a visit in 2010 one of my Australian dollars would buy me about 42 Pence. This was the standard. For years, Australian working tourists would come here, work for two years, then head back south and buy a house – essentially doubling their money. Times were good, my mother rented her house in South Kensington in 1984 for £50 a week.

By every financial metric that matters to an international student, I have benefitted from Brexit, and I suspect that many others from around the world will be in the exact same boat

But something strange happened this year, and it wasn’t just Brexit. It has more to do with Theresa May and her quasi-governing. She seems to think that a debate in which it was completely unclear what people really wanted or stood for translates into wrenching the United Kingdom from the womb of the world and stamping on the motherfucker until there’s nothing left but a slimy populist mush. Those Great British Pounds so treasured by Australians plummeted in their worth immediately, just in time for people like me to pay off their entire university fee.

Currency data from xe.com

At its lowest point, one Aussie dollar bought me about 63 Pence. In real terms this has saved me about $6,000 off the cost of my uni fees – to say nothing of the rent and daily expenditure I had factored in at costing about a third more than it will in the end. By every financial metric that matters to an international student, I have benefitted from Brexit, and I suspect that many others from around the world will be in the exact same boat.

I hope that many international students will use the opportunity of a deflated pound to come and study here. Sure we pay twice as much as everyone else, but it’s unlikely to ever be as cheap as it has been thanks to the referendum.

Politics is complicated, and Brexit was a great collective effort by both sides to ignore that

On balance, however, I would be happy to pay an extra 20% if it meant that this country hadn’t decided that life wasn’t worth living anymore. Brexit was a profoundly stupid idea, being enacted by profoundly ignorant people (Paul Keating might call them “sicko-populists.” He would be correct to do so). But it’s important to remember that in politics there aren’t two but fifty or one hundred sides to every story, and that a Polish worker coming to England and getting paid £9/hour might be a great story for the EU, but it’s not a great story for the English worker who used to be getting paid £12. Politics is complicated, and Brexit was a great collective effort by both sides to ignore that. It was difficult for the remainers to convince the public that if it ain’t broke don’t fix it as for many people it is broke – even if it ain’t the EU’s fault.

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Tom Melville

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