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There is a fear among the hundreds of thousands employed in financial services and related jobs in London and south-east England that the UK’s exit from the EU will push jobs overseas. Estimates put the number of workers in the sector in Britain at more than 2m, about a third of whom work in the capital.
But could leaving the EU have benefits for masters in finance graduates seeking work in other countries? Stefano Caselli, vice rector for international affairs and finance professor at SDA Bocconi School of Management in Italy, is upbeat about the UK’s vote last June to leave the EU. Milan, where his school is based, is among the EU centres that could benefit, as may Dublin, Frankfurt and Paris.
Applications for the masters in finance course at Bocconi are up 10 per cent this year compared with 2016, and applications from non-Italians have risen 39 per cent. Prof Caselli says this reflects the more international mindset of students in terms of where they will study and work. “Brexit is making us a bit more global,” he says.
The impending split could also benefit cities such as Hong Kong, Singapore and New York, adds Prof Caselli, who notes increased interest among his students in working in these locations.
While the effect of Brexit on jobs may take time to play out, one clear impact on UK business schools has been the decline in value of sterling against other currencies. This is seen as a ray of hope for British schools because it is making their courses relatively cheap. Several of the leading players have enjoyed sharp increases in overseas applications this year.
Oxford’s Saïd Business School has accepted 33 students from other EU countries on its masters in finance course this September, up from 25 a year earlier, and there has also been a rise in applications from other European countries, says Peter Eso, the programme director. The 16 per cent drop in sterling compared with the euro is part of the attraction, he says.
He describes Brexit as a “teaching point”, on a par with the Asian economic crisis that gripped countries in that region in 1997. This raised fears of a global economic meltdown from the financial contagion that did not come to pass.
Nonetheless, there is concern among British higher education institutions that Brexit may further restrict visas and deter overseas students, says Simon Collinson, chair of the Chartered Association of Business Schools.
But he insists that the UK will remain an important centre for financial services and that the competitive advantage many UK business schools have in terms of the quality of teaching and strong financial services networks will be difficult to replicate.
“No other city in mainland Europe comes close to the scale and quality on offer here, and many of these programmes are doing well and still growing,” Mr Collinson says. “If necessary UK business schools will use their capacity to adapt and deliver programmes through online, partnerships and satellite campuses to take their offer to where the students are.”
Frankfurt, Germany’s banking hub, is expected to benefit from financial services companies seeking a base in the eurozone after Brexit. As a result, people might think more students would choose to study in the city. But Julia Knobbe, programme director for the masters in finance course at the Frankfurt School of Finance & Management, is cautious.
“Brexit is a big topic in Frankfurt at the moment and there is lots of discussion about how many jobs this will bring to Germany,” she says. “But at the moment it is too early to say if and how much impact Brexit is having on [masters in finance] admissions numbers.”
There has been increased interest from prospective students, with applications for the masters in finance course up 21 per cent in 2016 compared with the previous year. Ms Knobbe attributes this to the improving reputation of the school’s programme, which is reflected in better course ranking positions and recruiting techniques.
“All of the discussion about whether or not jobs are coming to Frankfurt is only reinforcing the reputation of Frankfurt as the EU’s future financial capital,” she adds.
Two-thirds of the masters in finance graduates at the Stockholm School of Economics (SSE) go to work in finance jobs and Germany is one of the three main markets for its graduates, with the UK and Sweden.
Bo Becker, SSE’s programme director, says there will probably be a fragmentation of the services now centred in London as different European cities become specialists in different areas.
“Asset management may increasingly gravitate to the Netherlands while banking stays more national, and fintech develops in places like Stockholm and Berlin,” Prof Becker adds.
This he says can only be good news for the students: “Our graduates become ever more wide-ranging, both in terms of first jobs and long-term career trajectories.”