Exiting the EU: challenges and opportunities for higher education Contents
Higher education in the UK is a world class sector: our universities rank amongst the best and produce highly-regarded research, making them attractive to international students and staff. The UK’s impending exit from the EU has created significant uncertainty as links between our universities and those on the continent run deep. If the Government does not address the specific concerns within the HE sector, there is a risk that Brexit will damage the international competitiveness and long-term success of our universities.
The Government’s negotiations with the EU are now beginning. We have suggested a number of areas upon which it should prioritise, and also made recommendations 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.
By following the steps we recommend, the Government will ensure that higher education in our country can deal with the challenges of leaving the EU and be in position to take advantage of local and global opportunities.