Brexit. Good news or bad news for Higher Education?


Our universities are up there with the best in the world. And, as English is widely accepted as the international business language of choice, it’s no surprise our Higher Education sector attracts an awful lot of international students.

We’ve spent years fostering links with universities on the continent in a mutually beneficial education exchange. Naturally, exiting the EU will bring about a level of uncertainty. But what impact will this really have?

Naturally, if key issues are not addressed it could undoubtedly have a damaging and long-lasting effect. Not least because of the contribution the H.E sector contributes to our Gross National Product. But it’s about more than just the bottom-line. It’s about international reputation. It’s about research. And, most of all, it’s about – or should be about – the students and giving them the education they seek to fulfil their potential.

The Government’s negotiations are beginning. Here’s a summary from of the areas they’re suggesting it should prioritise. They’ve also flagged some recommendations too for new directions outside of the negotiations.

  • “The uncertainty over EU students and EU staff needs to be reduced immediately. Guaranteeing that the 2018/19 student cohort will have the same fees and tuition loan access will create short-term stability. For staff, the issue of their residency rights require speedy resolution—the Government should react to any delay in reaching a reciprocal agreement by unilaterally guaranteeing rights before the end of 2017.
  • The immigration system after Brexit should cater more particularly for the needs of higher education. It should facilitate, rather than obstruct, movement of people from and to our universities. An easier route than Tier 2 for academics from across the globe, with a less bureaucracy, is necessary.
  • The best model for all international students, including from the EU, is an open approach with few barriers. The Government should remove overseas students from the net migration target to make it clear it wants talent to come to the UK. This will help ensure that higher education can continue to benefit from EU students, but also talent from the rest of the world.
  • Research collaboration with Europe is essential to higher education. The Government should commit to Horizon 2020 and future research frameworks to ensure ongoing research collaboration with the EU, but it would be prudent to develop a plan to match its funding domestically in a scenario in which this access fails.
  • Erasmus+ is an important programme for student and staff mobility and continued membership should be a Government target; if this looks unlikely, we recommend a home-grown replacement that could include mobility beyond Europe. Whatever the result, we recommend an ambitious mobility strategy with universities.
  • To support the sector and help rebalance the economy, the Government should establish a new regional growth fund to replace, and exceed, the investment from European structural funding. We also recommend the value of ‘place’ is fully articulated in the allocation of domestic funding to ensure all regions can benefit.
  • To take advantage of the global reach of our universities, a bold cross-Government strategy is needed. Higher education should play an important role in upcoming trade deals with the rest of the world. The Government should pursue collaborations with major research nations and invest further resources into existing collaboration funding.”

In reality, no-one knows what the future will bring. But one thing’s for certain; with the triggering of Article 50… this is going ahead. We just have to hope that the measures that are put in place ensure we continue to play a pre-eminent role in the International Higher Education arena and that those who it’s supposed to benefit the most – namely the students – don’t lose out.


Thursday, 27 April 2017

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Brexit. Good news or bad news for Higher Education?