Heads of language schools across Eastbourne have spoken out over the damaging impact a no-deal Brexit could have on the industry.
In a letter to this newspaper, Paul Clark, of LTC (Language Teaching Centre), John Veale of ELC (English Language Centre), Christiane Lorenz of EF, Chris Savins of Twin English Centre, and Richard Kelly of St. Giles International argue the boost EU students bring to the town’s economy could be at risk if passports or visas are introduced.
Eastbourne benefits from £20 million a year from foreign students – almost 60 per cent of whom come from the EU. They can currently travel without passports or visas, but that may soon change.
Paul Clark, Principal of LTC, said, “We don’t want to get involved in politics but our concern is if Brexit is handled badly it could harm us.
“We are in competition with a number of other countries and they are all currently doing better than us.
“EU students currently come to the UK without a passport. In Europe, a lot of people haven’t got a passport because they can travel without one to 28 countries.
“Now they will need a passport to come to the UK. If you are an Italian teacher thinking of where to take your students and it costs half the class 110 euros to get passports for it – Ireland seems more attractive.”
He said they are hoping students will be able to visit with just their ID cards.
“We had a group of 60 Belgians this year, the group leader said to me ‘if we need passports I’m not coming next year’,” Mr Clark said.
“The second threat is if they need a visa. This would really hurt because people don’t like applying for visas – it’s expensive and takes time.
“It would make Ireland and Malta so much more attractive for students.”
There is also the worry flights could be disrupted in the event of a no deal Brexit. “People are already worried. I don’t think it will happen but it will be very damaging if it does.”
“Okay Brexit is going to happen, but don’t shoot the country in the foot.
“Language schools are very important to a lot of towns on the south coast, we make a difference to a lot of families in Eastbourne.
“If visas happen that would damage us seriously. The worst case scenario could affect us very badly.”
His school has about 3,000 students a year and about 50 per cent are from the EU.
The principals are urging residents to help by asking Stephen Lloyd to continue to help protect the industry by working to ensure visas are not imposed on short-stay language students from the EU.
The letter in full:
As the managers of local accredited language schools, we are concerned about the outcome of the Government’s enquiry into international students.
We teach English to students from all over the world, who choose to come here because of the reputation of our education system and because they want to experience British culture.
It has been estimated that language students support 37,500 jobs nationally, bringing £1.4 billion into the UK’s economy. Eastbourne’s economy benefits to the tune of £20 million every year from the students living, learning and travelling here: they support jobs, give host families welcome extra income and spend a lot of money in local businesses.
Almost 60 per cent of our students come from the EU, the great majority staying for just a few weeks. These students can currently travel without visas. We are concerned that this may be at risk if post-Brexit immigration rules impose visas.
We were pleased that the Migration Advisory Committee’s enquiry for the Government recognised the value, both cultural and economic, of the international students who come to learn in and experience the UK. But we are disappointed that it does not go far enough to protect our industry. The report does not recognise the important role English Language Teaching plays in international students’ journey to our universities, suggest visa-free travel for EU students after Brexit, or acknowledge the damage that is being caused by students remaining within the net migration figure.
As MPs both Stephen Lloyd and Caroline Ansell have been supportive of our industry, recognising its importance as one of Eastbourne’s largest employers. We urge the large number of local residents who benefit both directly and indirectly from the presence of international student visitors to the town to assist us by asking Stephen Lloyd to continue to help to protect and grow our industry by working to ensure that visas are not imposed on short-stay language students from the EU.
Principal, LTC Eastbourne
Centre Manager, ELC Eastbourne
School Director, EF Eastbourne
Principal, Twin English Centre Eastbourne
Principal, St. Giles International Eastbourne