13 April 2018

Article 50 one year on: higher education

Dr Ludovic Highman, Professor Simon Marginson and Dr William Locke discuss the implications, implementation and consequences of Brexit for UK universities in a new report by The UK in a Changing Europe.

In the report, they look at what has happened since Article 50 was triggered. They argue that there has been little clarity offered to the UK higher education sector on the nature of the future EU/UK relationship. The negotiations for an agreement have been slow and narrowly focused on the hard sciences, revealing the sector’s vulnerability. There are still bottlenecks – particularly regarding immigration and free movement – which affect staff, students and research collaboration.

They point out that freedom of movement is just as much a red line for the EU as it is for the UK. Should the EU depart from the Swiss precedent and allow the UK to limit the freedom of movement while retaining similar access as now, the Swiss themselves would demand concessions – a domino effect the EU is keen to avoid.

They suggest that it is likely the number of UK-based applications for EU grants will slowly diminish, unless an independent agreement regarding higher education, research and innovation is reached before the final deal.

They also point out that it is unlikely a mobility scheme for students will be funded nationally and there is a real risk that the full cost of studying abroad will be transferred to students.

They argue that ongoing participation to the end of Horizon 2020 and full participation in the 9th Framework Programme need to be secured as soon as possible to give researchers the certainty they need to submit quality bids.

They also argue that the fate of mobility exchanges under Erasmus Plus must also be addressed, allowing universities time to prepare and provide suitable arrangements.