Funding announced for research into effects of Brexit on UK universities

CGHE has been awarded funding from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) for a research project that will investigate the implications, implementation and consequences of Brexit for UK higher education institutions.

The funding will run from 1 May 2017 to 31 October 2018 and is part of the ESRC’s UK in a Changing Europe initiative which supports research into the relationship between the UK and the European Union (EU).

The UK’s departure from the EU has many potential consequences for UK universities and their staffing, research, international education and financial sustainability. It fundamentally changes the landscape in which decisions are taken.

The project will use empirical data to identify and better understand the challenges faced by the higher education sector. It will focus on the capacity of UK universities to respond to these challenges, alongside the other changes during this period in regulatory structures, immigration policy, the management of HEI teaching performance and the entry of new providers.

The researchers will investigate the perceptions of those who work within institutions regarding the implications of Brexit. They will investigate what HEIs are doing in response to possible Brexit scenarios, and the resources, modes of organisation and capabilities that inform these decisions. They will analyse how factors vary by UK nation, by university mission, status and resources, and by discipline.

The project will look at the implications of Brexit not simply in terms of the inner life of institutions but in the context of their broader relationships with local, national and European communities. It will also consider the broader impacts of Brexit for higher education in UK and Europe.

The project will be led by CGHE Director Professor Simon Marginson from the UCL Institute of Education, with CGHE Deputy Director William Locke from the UCL Institute of Education and Dr Vassiliki Papatsiba from the University of Sheffield as Co-Investigators.

Professor Simon Marginson said:

‘Brexit, in whatever form it takes, will require UK universities to make rapid, well-judged adjustments while building new relations in Europe and beyond. The high level of uncertainty about the options for policy and strategy is a crucial aspect of the Brexit challenge. Responding to that uncertainty, and the multiple options, requires exceptional agility and highly functional internal systems that integrate governance, management and academic units.

The impact of this research will be felt during the project as it will when the project’s findings are completed. Project events during the research will bring together the case study universities and others in the sector, providing a platform for exploring scenarios, alternatives and resources and highlighting the ways forward.’