international students
China, India and United States are the biggest group of international students coming to study in the UK.iStock

International student recruitment to UK universities could become harder if Britain leaves the EU, according to a survey by international student recruitment company Hobson's Solutions. The company sent out the survey to 10,384 international students to gauge their reaction to the UK's membership of the EU and the potential impact of either voting to leave or remain in the EU.

Out of 1,763 students who responded to the survey, 47% said they would not find UK an attractive place to study in the event of Brexit. But 17% said they would find it more attractive if the UK were to leave the EU.

There was a stark difference between EU and non-EU numbers with almost 80% of EU students saying it would become a less attractive place while only 35% non-EU students agreed with their European counterparts. An estimate of the income lost from 35% of international students would be more than £690m and the broader impact would be even bigger, it says.

Hobson's Managing Director Jeremy Cooper said: "A vote for Brexit would represent a further challenge. For universities in the UK, the conditions for recruiting international students are tougher than ever before," the BBC reported.

According to Higher Education statistics Agency (HESA) 240,767 international students entered the UK in 2014-15, of whom 60,955 were from the EU and 179,812 were from non-EU countries.

It is estimated that that around 113,116 international students "could be at risk of being put off" studying in the UK. If that figure is broken down, UK could lose around 50,056 EU and 63,060 non-EU students.

China, India and the United States form the biggest group of international students coming to study in the UK. Some 34% Chinese students are at the risk of being put off while 48% Indians and 45% US students could turn away from the prospect of studying in UK.

The researchers acknowledge that it is impossible to predict accurately but it is possible for international students to be dissuaded if Britain leaves the EU after the 23 June referendum.