Scottish universities and colleges unite to fight Brexit

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Georgina Hayes
Editor

Scottish colleges, universities, trade unions and the Scottish Government have agreed a united approach to protect Scotland from the worst effects of Brexit.

Ahead of today’s Brexit Summit on Colleges and Universities being held at the University of Glasgow, a joint statement has been released by the Scottish Government, Colleges Scotland, Universities Scotland, National Union of Students Scotland, Unison, Educational Institute of Scotland, University and College Union and Royal Society of Edinburgh.

The joint statement sets out how they will press the UK government to reintroduce a Post Study Work Visa in Scotland, continue research collaboration and safeguard education relationships with Europe.

The move by Scotland’s higher and further education sectors aims to protect the £4 billion contribution education makes to the economy. The sectors will pull together to safeguard Scotland’s global reputation in the arenas of research, science and education, recognising the disproportionate impact Brexit will have on EU staff and students north of the border.

Richard Lochhead, Further and Higher Education Minister, has said:“Brexit is the single biggest risk to our colleges and universities, threatening the ability to attract and retain EU staff and students and continue vital research.

“I welcome this joint statement which, amid the current chaos, sends a clear, powerful message that colleges and universities will use their collective influence to press for much needed answers from the UK Government.

“We will also work to retain our historic links with our European partners and ensure they are in no doubt that Scotland continues to welcome EU citizens to study or work here.”

The joint statement commits the organisations to work together to:

Safeguard and strengthen Scotland’s relationship with the rest of Europe

Support Scotland as a destination of choice for international staff and students

Call for clarity from the UK Government on future participation in the Erasmus+ programme

Call on the UK Government to introduce a post study work route in Scotland to enable universities and colleges to continue to attract and retain talent

Support Scottish universities in building on relationships and collaborate with European partners

Call on the UK Government to make clear how, in the event of “no deal”, research will be supported and how the UK will fully participate in Horizon Europe

Support the sustainability and competitiveness of Scotland’s tertiary system

Use their influence in Europe and beyond to ensure it is widely understood that Scotland remain open and welcoming to EU staff and students

Do their utmost to continue to collaborate with our European partners

On average, around 10% of Scottish universities’ research income comes from the EU. Scotland has benefited from 558 million euros from the Horizon 2020 programme, 64 million euros from the Erasmus programme, and an estimated £57 million of funding to colleges from the European Social Fund.

The Scottish Government has already confirmed that eligible EU students currently studying here or starting a degree this year or next will continue to be eligible for free tuition.

Mary Senior, Scotland Official, University and College Union has said:

“Brexit has created deep uncertainty and insecurity for EU citizens working in our universities – people delivering the teaching and research that makes our system world class. Isolation from Europe would have huge implications for our ability to attract staff and students from across the globe.

“With the stakes so incredibly high, it is unsurprising that UCU members recently voted overwhelmingly for a fresh referendum on whatever deal the UK government manages to secure.”

Liam McCabe, NUS Scotland President has said:

“Education in Scotland is rightly regarded as being among the best in the world. It is part of Scotland’s social fabric, and students studying in institutions across the country expect and deserve the very best in support, opportunities, teaching and facilities.

“The damage Brexit will inflict on student communities, educators across our institutions, research funding and more is becoming clearer by the day. It is vital that students are heard as part of this process if we truly intend to protect the education sector in Scotland and our communities across the country.”

You can read the full joint statement below:

Scotland’s story, and especially that of our universities, has been shaped by our close relationship with Europe. The UK’s expected departure from the European Union (EU) raises major issues and risks for our colleges and universities as well as for their staff and students.We will work together to do everything we can to safeguard and continue to strengthen Scotland’s relationship with the rest of Europe.

We are proud that, to date, Scotland has been a destination of choice for staff and students from around the globe. EU nationals – whether students, researchers, lecturers or other staff – continue to be welcome at our universities and colleges. EU nationals add to the diversity of our communities, enrich the learning experience, promote international collaboration and networks, boost the quality of our research, support knowledge exchange, and contribute to local businesses and jobs.

We welcome opportunities for Scottish-based students to study abroad and for international students to study in Scotland, particularly through Erasmus+ which is particularly important to students and others who would not otherwise be able to access such opportunities. We recognise that student mobility improves academic attainment, enhances the learning experience and increases employability, as well as promotes Scotland as a learning nation globally. We seek clarity from the UK Government on their detailed plans for implementing the guarantee in respect of Erasmus+ in the event of No Deal, and on their commitment on future participation.

We want EU nationals living, working and studying in Scotland to feel settled and secure. We will therefore continue to encourage the UK Government to provide an early guarantee of the rights of EU nationals already working and studying in Scotland or entering the UK in future to do so. We also call on the UK Government to introduce a post study work route in Scotland to enable our universities and colleges to continue to attract and retain talent from across the world.

Scotland’s research is widely recognised as amongst the best in the world and is underpinned by collaborations which have helped secure significant funding from European research programmes. We will work together to support Scottish universities in building on their existing relationships to continue to collaborate with a wide range of European partners. We call on the UK Government to make clear how the guarantee in the event of No Deal will be implemented for Horizon 2020 in practice and seek clarity on how the UK Government will enable the UK to fully participate in Horizon Europe.

Through the full use of its devolved powers, the Scottish Government will do all it can to address the risks of Brexit, supporting the sustainability and competitiveness of Scotland’s tertiary system. This will include the attraction of students from the EU, enriching the experience of all students, and supporting our economy, public services and culture.

We will work together using our collective influence in Europe and beyond to ensure it is widely understood that Scotland’s universities and colleges remain open and welcoming to EU staff and students, and will do our utmost to continue to collaborate with our European partners.