Brexit & Higher Education Briefing

As part of our i-genius Policy Centre work, we held a briefing on Higher Education at the European Commission London HQ with the support of DeMontfort University. The briefing was the first part of our Europe Evolve programme which looks at the affect Brexit is having on important aspects of life and the, economy, not only in the UK but in the rest of Europe and the world as a whole.

Why are Universities worried about Brexit?
The main concerns centre around the potential impact on student recruitment and research funding. Although some universities rely more on attracting foreign students and EU grants than others, many universities are vocal about the effect on higher education finances and the very survival of some could be in doubt.

How is it affecting student recruitment?
According to the latest Ucas admissions service figures, UK student applications are down by 4% along with a 5% drop from other EU students wishing to study in Britain. Uncertainty over Brexit and a rise in fees are thought to be the main reasons for this sharp decline. Some like Kaplan International have estimated that the weaker pound could boost foreign numbers (see Kaplan Report) and non EU student applications are up by 2% but it is a risky business relying on the valuation of sterling. Currencies fluctuate and those perceived to be unstable could put students off making, what is in effect, a long term personal investment. Furthermore, students often choose their place of study in anticipation of getting a job in the same country afterwards. With the UK economy slowing faster than almost any other advanced country, combined with tough immigration controls and an end to freedom of movement, new jobs could be hard to come by.

What about research funding?
There should, in theory, be little affect until the UK has formally left the EU. The UK government has committed to underwriting grants for committed projects which run beyond the UK’s departure from the EU. Further hope can be found in the High Level Group chaired by former European Commissioner, Pascal Lamy, which recommended that the UK should be included in future research projects Lamy Report. The picture remains uncertain, however, and many British institutions have already found themselves excluded from new proposals. Many fear that exclusion from programmes such as Horizon 2020 could have a significant effect on Britain’s knowledge-based economy which is heavily dependent on international co-operation. In funding terms alone, it is doubtful that a UK government, wrestling with a large deficit, would make up the shortfall. A dependency on localised funding could also see greater politicisation of funding as demonstrated by Theresa May’s £1.5bn agreement with the DUP to obtain a working majority in parliament.

Uncertainty is worrying. How have Academics reacted?
Not well it seems. A freedom of information request by the Guardian showed a 30% rise in academics leaving the UK. This request didn’t take account those entering the UK but if academics are reflective of other parts of the skill-based economy, the overall trend is likely to towards departure. To put it more succinctly, ‘Brexit means Exit’.

To continue reading the briefing, as well as view the summary report and presentation slides click here:


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