Guest Author Posted by Guest Author on 27th June, 2016

Brexit: Reactions from the HE Sector  

On Friday 24th June 2016, the results of the EU referendum were announced in favour of the UK leaving the EU. Here we round up some of the reactions and comments from across the sector.

Dame Julia Goodfellow, President of Universities UK:

“Leaving the EU will create significant challenges for universities. Although this is not an outcome that we wished or campaigned for, we respect the decision of the UK electorate. We should remember that leaving the EU will not happen overnight – there will be a gradual exit process with significant opportunities to seek assurances and influence future policy.

“Throughout the transition period our focus will be on securing support that allows our universities to continue to be global in their outlook, internationally networked and an attractive destination for talented people from across Europe. These features are central to ensuring that British universities continue to be the best in the world.

“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 in the long term, and to promote the UK as a welcoming destination for the brightest and best minds. They 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.”

Statement from Universities Scotland:

“The electorate has made its choice and we respect its decision. This outcome has a number of significant and direct implications for Scotland’s universities but the most important thing right now is to advise EU staff and students working and studying in our Scottish institutions that nothing changes overnight as a result of this referendum result.

“Higher education is truly global; it transcends borders. Our relationships with Europe, European universities and other institutions remain very important to us and we will work with all Governments and stakeholders to ensure those relationships are preserved under the new arrangements.

“Our priorities are to influence the negotiations for the terms of Scotland, and the UK’s, future relationship with the EU. We want to retain the right for staff and students from EU countries to continue working and studying in Scotland and to negotiate access to European programmes for students, staff and research. We believe this is compatible with the electorate’s decision and would be to the benefit of Scotland and the UK.”

Statement from Universities Wales:

“Leaving the EU will create significant challenges for universities. Although this is not an outcome that we wished or campaigned for, we respect the decision of the UK electorate. We should remember that leaving the EU will not happen overnight – there will be a gradual exit process with significant opportunities to seek assurances and influence future policy.

“Throughout the transition period our focus will be on securing support that allows our universities to continue to be global in their outlook, internationally networked and an attractive destination for talented people from across Europe. These features are central to ensuring that British universities continue to be the best in the world.

“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 in the long term, and to promote the UK as a welcoming destination for the brightest and best minds. They 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.”

Dr Wendy Piatt, Director General of the Russell Group:

“Leaving the European Union creates significant uncertainty for our leading universities but we will work with the Government to minimise any disruption caused by this decision. Throughout the campaign both sides acknowledged the value of EU funding to our universities and we will be seeking assurances from the Government that this will be replaced and sustained long term.

“The UK has not yet left the EU so it is important that our staff and students from other member countries understand that there will be no immediate impact on their status at our universities. However, we will be seeking assurances from the Government that staff and students currently working and studying at our universities can continue to do so after the UK negotiates leaving the EU.

“The free movement of talent, the networks, collaborations, critical mass of research activity and funding from EU membership have played a crucial part in the success of Russell Group universities. We will be working closely with the Government to secure the best deal for universities from the negotiations to come so that we can continue to form productive collaborations across Europe.”

Professor Dave Phoenix, Chair of MillionPlus:

“UK universities have benefitted from Britain’s relationship with Europe and will face a period of adjustment. However they will undoubtedly be working to re-focus their strategic plans, reassure staff and support students. Nothing will happen quickly and universities will be making clear that EU students are welcome to study in Britain on exactly the same terms as now.

“The period of transition gives the government the opportunity to re-think its approach to international students by taking these students out of net migration targets, introducing new post-study routes, increasing research funding and making sure that universities are protected in funding terms and not disadvantaged in the global market. Universities will also want Ministers to negotiate agreements with other European countries to help ensure that the benefits to students and staff of studying and working in each other’s countries continue.

“Above all, universities must have a period of stability. Ministers should think long and hard about the merits of pushing ahead with the HE and Research Bill and the proposals in the BIS HE White Paper at the present time. The Bill has UK-wide implications and will introduce far-reaching changes to the HE and research architecture in Britain. Deferring Second Reading of the Bill in favour of a period of further reflection, consultation, stability and an increase in direct funding for teaching and research would be a sensible move that would be welcomed by many Vice-Chancellors and students.”

Megan Dunn, NUS national president:

“This is clearly not the result that many young people wanted or voted for, but most important now is to ensure that students and young people are involved in the decisions that have to be made that will shape their future. We have urgent questions about how the vote to leave will affect students, particularly EU students in the UK and UK students studying in the EU, and call on the government to offer clear assurances to them about their situation.

“NUS believes 16 and 17-year-olds should have had the right to vote in the EU referendum, as our research showed 76 per cent would have voted if they could. It was a once in a generation vote, but the people who will be most affected were denied the chance to have their say.

“We are now appealing to the older generation to support young people and listen to the voices of students as we move to leave the EU. We must work out how to bring people together and ensure unity in a post-Brexit world.” 

Martin McQuillan for Wonkhe:

“British universities have woken up this morning to an uncertain future. According to a recent poll conducted by the Times Higher Education magazine, 90% of those working in UK universities, academic and professional, wanted to remain part of the European Union.

“There will no doubt be some shy Brexiteers within higher education but the number is astonishing in its unanimity. Today, as the results of the EU referendum are known, universities now find themselves on the wrong side of a cultural and political divide that will have profound consequences for the United Kingdom for years to come.

“There are immediate and practical consequences for British higher education. Some will be concerned about the status of EU funding for research and science, some will be looking towards the future of students from the European Union, others will be thinking about the prospects of extended economic contraction within the UK and its impact on public spending, and others will be anxious about the situation of colleagues and friends working in British universities with EU passports. To say, it’s kind of a big deal is to venture something of an understatement.”

More updates and commentary from Wonkhe can be found here

Image credit: Brexit? by Tomek Nacho is licensed by CC BY-ND 2.0

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