Late last month, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union in a historic referendum. This British exit, commonly known as “Brexit,” marks the first time any nation has left the EU since its creation in 1993.
Overnight, the pound dropped 9 percent in value, the lowest it’s fallen in over 30 years. British Prime Minister David Cameron also announced his resignation after polling results supported Brexit on June 24.
At UTD, and at universities across the country, there is concern over how Brexit will affect students interested in studying in the U.K.
Lisabeth Lassiter, the director of the education abroad program, said the International Center held a meeting shortly after the referendum to discuss the possible effects it could have on the program.
“We don’t see as much of an impact with our students going there,” she said. “The concern is that we have exchange programs that rely on them sending us an equal amount of students.”
She explained the rapid decrease in the value of the pound could possibly discourage students in the U.K. from coming to America because it has become more expensive. However, the full impact of the referendum is yet to be seen.
Under Article 50, defined in the Lisbon Treaty, the U.K. has two years to negotiate the terms of its departure. While Brexit won’t affect students studying abroad anytime soon, the ones currently there were impacted just witnessing the monumental event.
Finance junior Rebecca Tjahja arrived in London days before the referendum vote. Already a bustling city, the streets were filled with activists passing out balloons and flyers urging citizens to vote to remain, she said.
“This is one of the coolest times to be studying abroad with everything happening,” Tjahja said. “It’s one thing to be in America watching it on TV or reading it through media, its another thing to be literally here as it’s happening.”
She said most students at the London School of Economics and Political Science, where she’s studying, didn’t seem concerned about the referendum and were confident the U.K. would vote to remain with the EU.
“The next day I went around London and people were just in shock,” she said. “(There was) a serious air of uncertainty because we don’t really know what is going on.”
Clint Peinhardt, associate professor of political science, said there are a lot of theories about what should happen next after Brexit, but very few certainties.
“Financial markets are trying to come to terms with what this will mean,” he said. “I think (the pound) could be permanently disadvantaged, so we might find that Britain is cheaper not just now, but in the future.”
Peinhardt also said the U.K. isn’t alone in its dissatisfaction with the EU. Other countries’ right wing groups have expressed hesitance in the past at the increasing power of the EU and dislike the regulations the organization imposes on their national governments.
Following Brexit, Peinhardt predicted that there is a possibility of the U.K. splitting up, with Scotland talking of holding another referendum to leave and Northern Ireland possibly following suit.
Peinhardt also expressed concern about the U.K. continuing to be a popular location for American students to travel.
“If you’re thinking about studying abroad, the U.K. just got cheaper,” he said. “I think it also got less attractive as a study abroad destination.”