Uncertainty about Brexit may have stopped the rising trend of UK students going to a leading Dutch university.
Maastricht University has seen a 6% downturn in UK students – after successive years of increases in the wake of tuition fee rises in England.
Leaving the European Union could mean UK students losing access to lower fees in Dutch universities.
But a Maastricht spokeswoman said the dip in UK students was temporary.
She said there was still a 35% increase over five years – and it was still too soon after the EU referendum to see any long-term trends.
Thousands of UK students are in Dutch universities – which have been promoting themselves as a high quality and low cost alternative – with Maastricht among the most prominent recruiters, with about 380 UK students enrolling for the current year.
Courses, taught in English, have fees of about £1,500 per year – compared with fees that are rising to £9,250 in England.
‘Wait and see’
But the Maastricht enrolment figures – covering courses starting in September 2016 and February 2017 – show a 6% year-on-year decline in UK students after five years of increases.
The University of Maastricht spokeswoman, however, said this was more of a matter of “wait and see” than a long-term reversal of the trend for more UK students to opt for the Netherlands.
And another Dutch university, the University of Groningen, has reported an increase in its UK students for September 2016 compared with the previous year.
The Brexit vote also may have affected applications in the other direction too, with a 7% decline in applications from EU students for UK universities.
But Maastricht also points to a survey it has commissioned of independent school head teachers in the UK.
This survey, of members of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, suggests interest among pupils in studying abroad was continuing to increase.
It found “record levels” of interest, with 89% of heads saying pupils were “more attracted to the idea of studying at an overseas university”.
Half of the heads reported a “significant or moderate” increase in interest over the past five years.
Mark Huntington, from the Study in Holland website, said that the overall trend was still upwards for UK students choosing Dutch universities.
And he said the figures could have been complicated by a number of UK-resident young people being entitled to other EU passports and using them when applying to Dutch universities.
Maastricht University president Prof Martin Paul said the finding from independent school heads that sixth-formers were not being put off from considering studying abroad was “reassuring”.
“At a time when political changes appear to encourage a more insular outlook, it is particularly important for young people to keep an open mind and a global mindset,” said Prof Paul.
Mike Buchanan, who chairs the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, said sixth-formers were likely to keep seeing the benefits of studying abroad.
“They and their families know that an international outlook is more important than ever in helping to shape their individual careers and help Britain to remain an outward looking nation,” he said.