University Post
University of Copenhagen
Independent of management


University of Copenhagen preparing for hard Brexit

A hard, no-deal, Brexit threatens the University of Copenhagen's 41 exchange agreements in the United Kingdom.

If the United Kingdom leaves the European Union without an agreement, the University of Copenhagen’s exchange agreements with 41 British universities are null and void. And even though the outcome of Brexit is uncertain, the University of Copenhagen has prepared for a no-deal, or hard Brexit.

The 41 universities are all part of the EU’s Erasmus+ exchange programme and are therefore set to expire at the end of the academic year 2018/19, if the British say goodbye the hard way.

»We have been in dialogue with our current British partner universities, and they have all expressed a wish to enter into new agreements outside the Erasmus+ in the event of a no-deal,« says Trine Højbjerg Sand, section manager for international education and SU student grants at the University of Copenhagen.

The university has initially tried to alter the agreements from Erasmus+ to general exchange agreements until the spring of 2021. The agreements will therefore look the same as those that the University of Copenhagen has with overseas partners in countries like the United States, Australia and Singapore.

Extensive administration

In the two years until 2021, the University of Copenhagen will have internal, parallel, discussions with faculties and academic communities about which partnerships should be continued in the future, according to Trine Højbjerg Sand.

The UK is just my preferred option. So I’m willing to spend the extra time, energy and money to go for it.

Johanne Albrechtsen, student, film and media studies

»But it is, of course, an extensive administrative job, and it will require many resources,«  she says.

One way the University of Copenhagen can reduce the administrative work, is to set up joint UCPH packages across the faculties, so that individual faculties do not have to set up their own agreements with each of the individual British universities that they want to have as partner.

Students need an alternative plan

A no-deal Brexit will mostly, only be significant for the academic year 2019/20, since the United Kingdom has guaranteed Erasmus cooperation up to, and including, the end of 2018/19. But from next year, the Erasmus scholarships will disappear. This means that students who are interested in studying abroad in the United Kingdom, have to live with uncertainty about which agreements are in place, and about the terms for their residence permit.

»So we have said to our students that they should need a plan B,«  says Anne Mette Wohl Rasmussen, a specialist consultant in the section for international admissions at the Faculty of Science’s education unit.

»They may well get their places, but they are not guaranteed a scholarship. This is the big difference between the Erasmus+ and the overseas agreements.«

This uncertainty, says Trine Højbjerg Sand, will result in a significant drop in the number of students who apply to the United Kingdom in 2019/20, no matter how Brexit ends up.

»Planning a stay abroad entails a good deal of planning, so when uncertainty turns up about things as important as the terms of residence, scholarships and so on, this will lead to even greater uncertainty among the students,« says Trine Højbjerg Sand.

»The UK is just my preferred option.«

Despite all the Brexit uncertainty, Johanne Albrechtsen, who is doing her fourth semester of film and media studies, decided to apply as an exchange student to the UK for the spring of 2020. The University of Leeds is her first priority, and York St. John University is number two.

We have said to our students that they should have a plan B.

Anne Mette Wohl Rasmussen, specialist consultant, section for international admissions at the Faculty of Science’s education unit

»Brexit has not scared me away, even though it obviously requires more preparation,« says Johanne Albrechtsen.

»I have considered taking a place in the Nordic region if it ends up with a no-deal Brexit, because you only have to apply in the autumn. But the UK is just my preferred option. So I’m willing to spend the extra time, energy and money to go for it.

It is, in particular, the English language and the course offering which Johanne finds the most appealing in the UK. And she is not alone, according to Trine Højbjerg Sand. She points to the language, and to the universities quality, as the main reasons why the United Kingdom is the second most popular destination among the University of Copenhagen’s students.

As to whether the country remains at the top in the coming years, only time will tell. The UCPH students who dream of a semester in the United Kingdom, can take comfort in the fact that the British House of Commons voted Wednesday 3rd April to avoid a hard Brexit.

The European Commission president said Wednesday 3rd April however, that he still finds it »very likely« that the United Kingdom leaves the EU without an agreement on the 12th April. This, at the time of writing, is the Brexit withdrawal date.

Translated by Mike Young