22 June 2017

Brexit uncertainty: UK universities face growing risks

Professor Simon Marginson argues that a hard Brexit, and particularly a no deal outcome, would pose a serious threat to the national viability and global competitiveness of UK universities in a new report by The UK in a Changing Europe.

The article shows how European ideas, resources and talent have been crucial to the global success of UK universities. It goes on to highlight the risks facing the higher education sector as a result of last year’s referendum result.

One of these risks concerns the partial interdependence of residency rights and research funding. Acknowledging the importance of European research schemes, the government has included continued UK membership as an objective in Brexit negotiations. But it has failed to provide certainty over the status of EU citizens already living in the UK. Professor Marginson warns that the longer this issue is unresolved the worse the long-term effects will be.

Another risk is that in future EU students will almost certainly pay fees on the same basis as non-EU international students (and will no longer benefit from income-contingent loans). Universities are likely to suffer a severe loss of EU applicants as a result.

The article also addresses the ‘ambiguous’ outcomes of a future skilled migration scheme.

Professor Marginson concludes that much in higher education depends on whether the UK post-Brexit can be meritocratic, internationally engaged and – most importantly – open. A hard Brexit, or a no deal outcome, would not only threaten the UK’s European research funding, but result in lost access to networks and a narrower scope for industry innovation.

EU referendum: one year on, commissioned by the Political Studies Association, is written by 38 leading academics, and covers politics, economics, public opinion, public policies, the implications for the nations of the UK and relations with the EU following the UK’s referendum last year.