International Schools in Post-Brexit Europe

Who remembers, about six years ago, when advice started to emerge for parents after the Brexit vote? Families in the UK, or contemplating a move there, were warned of Brexit’s likely effects on international school enrollment. Britain’s schools would surely see a shift in European student enrollment, as work and immigration regulations changed for their parents.

The 2016 referendum to leave the EU threw all parts of UK society into serious consideration of what the future might look like. That future was coming fast, with a March 29, 2019 deadline initially agreed upon. That deadline would be extended three times. But as early as 2017, we began noting the ramifications for international schools. And not just in the UK. Cities in other EU countries might absorb students otherwise headed for the UK.

Anticipating a shift, international schools in cities like Amsterdam, Dublin, Frankfurt, and Paris started preparing for an uptick in applications. French officials planned new international schools around Paris. Irish educators recognized the country’s status as the largest English-speaking EU member, once the UK left.

No one knew for certain how it would play out, and many schools were not able to expand facilities or accommodate a surge in students.

On Jan 31, 2020, Brexit did bring sweeping changes to the UK’s place in Europe, though a transition period allocated to last until December 31 was meant to ease the immense adjustments. But then, no one had planned for the COVID-19 pandemic which not only shut down schools and borders, but also brought economic engines to a standstill.

Now, three years later, both Brexit and COVID have changed the landscape of international schools in Europe. Applications to Irish universities have tripled since Brexit. Schools everywhere accelerated their digital capabilities and are now in a better position to handle students remotely. Economies are recovering and business travel is returning, but the full effects of the past several years on school choice are still evolving.

The best advice for parents continues to be: Plan ahead. Wait lists can be long at schools in popular locations. School placement professionals can be helpful in informing you about educational offerings, connecting you with contacts at local schools, and guiding you through the application process.

Living Abroad’s destination reports are designed to prepare you for work or relocation abroad. Where to educate your children in a new location is one of the most important decisions parents make. Those of you who read our France, Germany, Ireland, and other reports back in 2017 benefitted from our advice to prepare for Brexit’s effects.

Thank you for trusting us to inform and guide you as your family chooses to live abroad.

Written by Ellen Harris, GMS, Product Manager, Content Group