Uncertainty for UK universities

Following the vote in favour of Brexit (British exit) earlier this year, universities in the UK now face uncertainties about the future of research funding, student fees and hiring of staff from the European Union (EU).

Current figures show there was strong support for the Remain side in university towns including Oxford, Cambridge and Bristol. It seemed the majority of students were in favour of Remain, with the referendum results showing around 75% of 18 to 24-year-olds voting Remain, compared to around 40% of over 65s. (Figures from The Independent.)

Around 5% of students in the UK are from other EU countries and non-British EU academics have moved to the UK in recent years to work at universities that are ranked among the best in the world. Around 23% of research scientists at Cambridge University are from other EU countries.

The Russell Group, who represent 24 leading UK universities, warned the vote had created “significant uncertainty for our leading universities”.

“The ability of universities to recruit EU nationality (excluding UK) staff and to attract EU nationality students without having to negotiate the UK visa system is incredibly valuable,” it says.

Higher education action group Universities UK notes that there are 125,000 EU students at British universities, generating more than £2.2bn for the economy and creating 19,000 jobs, while 14 per cent of academic staff come from other EU nations.

Dame Julia Goodfellow, president of Universities UK, said: “Leaving the EU would create significant challenges for universities.”

“Our first priority will be to convince the UK government to take steps to ensure that staff and students from EU countries can continue to work and study at British universities and to promote the UK as a welcoming destination for the brightest and best minds.”

“EU students make a powerful contribution to university research and teaching and have a positive impact on the British economy and society. We will also prioritise securing opportunities for our researchers and students to access vital pan-European programmes and build new global networks.”

What are your thoughts on the referendum results?

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