Britain has voted to leave the EU in this week’s referendum. Our live blog will round up the implications for HE and the reactions from across the world of universities.
The Russell Group have released their statement on Brexit:
“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.”
UCL have released a statement that we anticipate will be similar to several universities’ statements later, reassuring students that tuition fees for EU students in 2016-17 will not be changing:
At this early stage, there is no certainty on how leaving the EU will affect the multiplicity of relationships and activities that UK universities engage in. The timetable for any amendments to current arrangements affecting fees for EU students and research funding is currently unclear.
However, UCL can confirm that it has no plans to change the tuition fees for EU students that have already been published for 2016/17. EU students who are registered at the university in 2016/17 (either as a new or continuing student) will continue to be charged the home rate for tuition fees for all subsequent years of their programme.
Wonkhe understands that BIS are on complete lockdown at the moment, along with all other government departments. No.10 are in charge of all communications and will be issuing instructions to departments today. It is not yet clear whether a plan of action is hiding in a draw somewhere in 1 Victoria Street. We know that there is one in the Cabinet Office at least.
There is a massive question about whether the UK Civil Service has anything near the capacity to deal with a Brexit. Rumours abound of a ‘Brexit Ministry’, combining the necessary staff from the Treasury, Cabinet Office, Foreign Office, Ministry of Justice, BIS, Defra and other ministries, including representatives of the devolved administrations. The service, and particularly BIS, has suffered from substantial cuts and loss of expertise under austerity, and capacity is already stretched.
Almost exactly a year ago, Emran Mian wrote for Wonkhe on what a Brexit might mean for higher education and how the Leave campaign might rebut the sector’s arguments. If it fair to say that his fears were proven correct?
But here’s the trouble: a Brexit advocate can say that, as with labour mobility, student mobility need not reduce to zero if the UK leaves the EU. It’s just that it will be managed differently. For example, EU students will not have access to the same financial support as UK students. And that is all the better. We lose a lot of money by lending money to migrants. We could use some of these student finance savings to provide scholarships to the brightest and the best applicants from other European countries. Can we show why this won’t work? Or even harder, can we prove that UK students have not in any way been crowded out by EU students? Brexit might be a great opportunity for widening participation, if as much as 6% of total student numbers – and the finance associated with them – becomes newly available to UK applicants.
I’ll stop there. My heart is heavy. There is time to construct better arguments. But we had better use it wisely. Or we won’t be helping the case for the UK to stay.
Wonkhe Assistant Director Ant Bagshaw has written why we all need to keep calm, carry on, and recognise the role that universities will play in finding our country’s way out:
This decision does not have to be a “crisis for Britain.” Let’s remember that the colleagues who will be working hard on revising the treaties, on making the trade agreements and on all the other features of our new constitution are pragmatists. They’re wonks. Brexit is a problem to solve. It needs to be solved in a way which supports the UK economy, which provides opportunities across teaching, research, knowledge transfer, public engagement and all the other work of higher education.
The outgoing President of the National Union of Students, Megan Dunn, has written to the Prime Minister, asking that “students and young people will… be thoroughly consulted” in the exit negotiations.
Her statement also says:
“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.”
There will be considerable anger amongst students and young people who voted overwhelmingly to Remain.
The Academy for Social Sciences and the Campaign for Social Science have released a statement on what the government should prioritise as we navigate the consequences of Brexit.
In light of the UK referendum decision to leave the EU, the Academy of Social Sciences and its Campaign for Social Science believe the Government will need to consider the implications for UK research in its post-referendum negotiations if UK research excellence is to be protected.
Specifically, the UK Government will need to:
Consider the nature and structure of access to European research funding, which will be affected by decisions on whether or not we become an EFTA EEA country, and how we approach freedom of movement. Our longer note discusses differences between some possible models, including the Swiss and Norwegian, for research funding and collaboration. Consideration should be given to the implications of any model for participation, funding, and leadership within the European Research Area and its framework programmes, including Horizon 2020.
Consider making good any shortfall in funding (the UK is a net beneficiary) in order to preserve UK social science excellence if the negotiated terms do not allow UK researchers access to EU funding as an associated country.
Mitigate the impact on the freedom of movement of international social science research talent into UK, to ensure that future immigration policies do not pose unreasonable barriers to entry to UK academic posts and to specialist social science research posts outside academe. The Government will also need to consider whether EU students will continue to have access to UK HEIs on the same terms.
Universities UK have released a likely pre-prepared statement on the vote to Leave the European Union, which signifies a substantial defeat for the organisation’s vigorous campaigning to Remain.
UUK’s board meet later today.
Dame Julia Goodfellow, President of Universities UK said:
‘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 takes steps to ensure that staff and students from EU countries can continue to work and study at British universities 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.
Big decision. Let’s make it work.
— Jo Johnson (@JoJohnsonMP) June 24, 2016
Jo Johnson MP, Universities and Science Minister
#Brexit paints an uncertain picture for Higher Education in the UK: from student fees, to research funding and recruitment.
— Sorana Vieru (@SoranaBanana) June 24, 2016
Sorana Vieru, Vice President (Higher Education), NUS
In weeks ahead we must continue to champion an outward looking, internationalist and tolerant nation. These values matter now more than ever
— Alistair Jarvis (@AlistairJarvis) June 24, 2016
Alistair Jarvis, Deputy Chief-Executive, Universities UK
Momentous EU result for universities which need a period of stability prior to transition and negotiation to leave EU
— Pam Tatlow (@millionplusCEO) June 24, 2016
Pam Tatlow, Chief Executive, million+
The Prime Minister has announced that he wants a new Conservative leader and Prime Minister by the start of the the Conservative Party Conference in October. A leadership contest will thus begin in the next few weeks.
Britain has voted to leave the European Union. It is very likely that our readers, as staff in higher education, voted to remain. For our part at Team Wonkhe, it is still taking some time to settle in. We will be running a live blog today to help you follow news and reaction from across the higher education sector and the wider world of UK politics.
The regional variation in results has been quite striking. As expected, remote and small towns in the north and east of England and the Welsh valleys were overwhelmingly for Leave, whilst the Remain’s strongholds were in inner-London, Scotland, Oxford and Cambridge. We noted yesterday that these divisions reflect a divided Britain, with those areas with low levels of higher education most likely to vote for Leave. That said, several cities with a large higher education presence surprisingly voted for Leave or saw a poorer performance for Remain than expected, including Birmingham, Newcastle, Leeds and Sheffield.
As well as the regional variation, the generation variation is even more striking than anticipated. 75% of 18-24 year olds voted to Remain, compared to 39% of over 65s.
The sector will no doubt feel quite bitter this morning; that its expertise and wisdom has been roundly rejected by a Britain that is angry and hungry for change. As we wrote yesterday on Wonkhe, higher education needs to consider its reach and relevance in Brexit-Britain. The culture and tone of our public life may well have changed for good. Experts have an uphill battle to make themselves relevant again. For those confused about why and how this has happened, we strongly recommend John Harris’s ‘Anywhere but Westminster’ report, which included a visit to the University of Manchester.