12 June 2018

The threat of Brexit to the European project

In a new article, Dr Aline Courtois argues that Brexit may have serious implications for higher education in the UK and beyond. She discusses the findings of CGHE’s report on the potential impact of Brexit on higher education and research across Europe.

Dr Courtois points out that as well as being the second largest recipient of competitive research funding from the EU (after Germany), nearly half of the academic papers produced by the UK are written in collaboration with at least one international partner. Among the top 20 countries UK academics cooperate the most with, 13 are in the European Union. As a result, a ‘hard Brexit’, in which free movement is no longer guaranteed, could be devastating for the UK higher education sector.

Dr Courtois highlights the contrasting attitudes revealed in the CGHE report. On one hand, academics were eager to continue collaborating with their UK colleagues no matter what shape Brexit would take. On the other hand, the majority of research participants shared pragmatic views and emerging strategies to minimise the cost of Brexit to their own national systems and universities; and these often implied partially excluding UK partners from collaborations.

Dr Courtois concludes by discussing the threat to the European project at large. She argues that EU membership has played a significant role in the success of the UK, but the research productivity and reputation of UK institutions have also helped the region in achieving great visibility in the global higher education and research landscape.

Brexit and universities: toward a reconfiguration of the European higher education sector? is published in International Higher Education