Live: BrHExit – Where next for universities and Europe?



  • Panel: The new politics and the role of universities in putting our fractured society back together

    We are now joined by Smita Jamdar, the higher education sector’s chief legal thinker, and Andy Westwood, professional panel member, who will respond with their reflections on the implications for universities.

    Smita opens by musing on the importance of universities’ mission and obligations to their local areas. This is stated in most universities’ founding charters: they were created to bring higher education to their local area. But universities’ focus is increasingly national and international, with pressures from TEF, REF, rankings and recruitment. Has the local region been forgotten by higher education?

    This must go beyond the odd collaboration with a LEP and an outreach project here and there. If more universities were more proactive and delivered for their local regions, would we have seen the sort of division described by Matthew that led to Brexit? This isn’t just fluffy: Brexit has cost the sector a lot of money.

    Brexit has shown us that failing to tackle societal inequalities has cost universities dear. It is not matter of legal and regulatory compliance: it is in universities’ self-interest. Much of the focus might be on universities’ duties as educators, but there is also an imperative in research and wider policy making.

    All this is not to say that internationalism should be forgotten. Far, far from it. Brexit showed that international problems are, to many in the UK, a distraction or an irrelevance. This has to change, and universities have a vital role in connecting the local and the regional to the global and international.

    The challenge for universities, going forward, is to be accessible, relevant and trusted. Perhaps that will put our broken society back together again.

    2 years ago
  • Leave voters “couldn’t wait” to vote

    In running an exit poll on the day, Matthew points out that Leave voters were far more likely to vote early on the day. “They couldn’t wait to vote Leave”. Evidence shows that increasing numbers of people have believed that the government does not represent them and does not have their interests at heart. A substantial proportion of the population is alienated and angry.

    Matthew says he does not believe that the government can afford to negotiate an agreement that doesn’t clamp down on free movement. David Davis is clearly willing to ensure that little compromise is made on this issue, even if it damages the economy. Public opinion matters too much on immigration, and polling indicates people are willing to take a hit on the economy in order to control borders.

    We also have an interesting question about grammar schools and the importance of education policy in the post-Brexit UK.


    2 years ago
  • The new politics

    Matthew finishes with reflections on the political future. The evidence suggests “it is almost impossible to imagine anything other than a Conservative majority government at the next election”.

    To stand a chance of winning a majority at the next election, Labour needs to be 14 points ahead of the Conservatives. They are currently 12 points behind. Matthew also predicts that many former UKIP voters will revert to the Conservatives, costing Labour several seats that they lost to Labour in 2015.

    2 years ago
  • Sovereignty a proxy for immigration

    When asked about why they voted Leave, respondents overwhelmingly responded about immigration. When asked about why they voted Remain, respondents overwhelmingly mentioned the economy.

    Immigration and sovereignty were often mentioned in the same breath by Leave voters and became proxies for each other.

    Immigration has been a bit paradoxical in understanding the debate, because areas with the most immigration voted to Remain, and areas with the least immigration voted to Leave. HOWEVER, what did predict voting behaviour was the change in the percentage of EU nationals living in an area over the last 10 years.

    Local authorities with a significant increase in EU migration in the last 10 years were the most likely to vote Leave; Boston, Lincolnshire, is the archetypal example.

    2 years ago
  • Age, class, values and education

    The vote was strongly divided along class, geography and age lines. Since Britain’s transition into a post-industrial service-based economy, two groups have formed, between those who have adapted and thrived on the new economy, and those who have suffered the most in the transition.

    Those who have adapted and succeeded in the new economy are also more socially liberal and more welcoming of substantial social change. Those who have been left behind are sceptical of social liberalism and wary of rapid social change.

    But most importantly, above all other factors, education was the biggest predictor of voting behaviour.

    Support for Remain by educational level ranged from 18% for those with no formal education, 28% with primary school education, 36% with secondary school education, 57% with a degree, 64% with a postgraduate qualification.

    Amongst those currently in full-time education, 81% supported Remain.

    When controlled for by regression analysis, support for Leave was 30 percentage points higher among those with GCSE qualifications or below than those with a university degree. By contrast, income divides only accounted for a 10 percentage point difference. Education mattered more than income.


    2 years ago
  • Why did people vote Leave?

    Professor Matthew Goodwin of the University of Kent is beginning. Matthew is an expert on UKIP and the rise of Euroscepticism in Britain.

    “It wasn’t close” – he tells us. Brexit had a commanding majority in a very large number of areas. An estimated 421 parliamentary constituencies voted Leave, but only 148 MPs did. This was the first moment in British political history that the will of Parliament is being overridden by the will of the people. 7 out of 10 Labour constituencies voted Leave, as did 8 out of 10 Conservative seats.

    The Leave vote ranged from a peak 76% in Boston to 21% in Lambeth.

    2 years ago
  • In the beginning…

    And we’re off. Mark Leach, our Director and Editor in Chief, is opening conference and taking us through the programme for the day.

    We will be discussing the aftermath of the campaign, the impact on universities, the impact on science and research, and the implications for UK HE’s internationalism.

    You can follow the #BreHExit hashtag on Twitter as well as this live blog. For those wondering, BrHExit is pronounced with a silent ‘H’, like in Wonkhe. “Brexit means Brexit” is banned for the day as useless cliche.

    2 years ago
  • Setting the scene

    Since June 25th Wonkhe has been full of contributions and articles trying to summarise the impact of Brexit on UK higher education.

    You can catch up on all this coverage on our Brexit tag.

    This morning we feature a new contribution from Tom Frostick of Universities Alliance, on the importance of EU structural funding to universities and why it should be maintained in some form post-Brexit.

    Image: Shutterstock

    2 years ago
  • On the line-up today

    Good morning. We’re very excited about what should be a packed day of debate and discussion.

    Our speakers today are:

    • Mark Leach, Editor, Wonkhe
    • Matthew Goodwin, author and Professor of Politics at the University of Kent
    • Alistair Jarvis, Deputy CEO, Universities UK
    • Claire Craig, Director of Science Policy, The Royal Society
    • Deirdre Heenan, PVC and Provost, Ulster University
    • Alixe Bovey, Head of Research, The Courtauld Institute of Art
    • Jonathan Simons, Head of Education, Policy Exchange
    • Tricia King, Vice President Operations, CASE
    • Smita Jamdar, Partner, Shakespeare Martineau
    • James Wilsdon, Professor of Research Policy, University of Sheffield
    • Joy Carter, Vice Chancellor, University of Winchester
    • Beth Button, European Students’ Union
    • Huw Morris, Director, Skills, Higher Education and Lifelong Learning, Welsh Government
    • Andy Westwood, Associate Vice President Public Affairs, University of Manchester and Professor of Politics, Winchester University
    • Graeme Wise, Head of Policy, University Alliance
    2 years ago