Open letter by universities warns against no-deal Brexit

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Credit: George Hodan

Inanna Tribukait
Reporter

In an open letter to the MPs, university leaders around the UK have addressed a no-deal Brexit, a scenario they consider to be “one of the biggest threats our universities have ever faced.”

The letter was published on 4 January by Universities UK, the Russell Group, Guild HE, Million Plus and University Alliance, groups that collectively represent more than 150 Higher Education providers in the UK, including the University of Glasgow.

According to the open letter, a no-deal Brexit will significantly compromise research links and damage exchange of staff, students and knowledge. Furthermore, the letter emphasizes the importance of Higher Education as an economical sector which contributes over £21 billion to the UK GDP. The thriving of the Higher Education sector, endangered by a no-deal Brexit, is therefore of “great national interest, to the economy, communities and wider society“.

The signing parties are also looking for reassurance that the existing research funding sources, from which they may be excluded through Brexit, will be replaced by the government. If UK Higher Education institutions do not continue to receive the funding schemes they currently do, important research including in the fields of cancer treatments and combating climate change might be compromised.

In order to avoid the most severe consequences, the letter states, “our government must demonstrate the required ambition, put the right measures and guarantees in place, and, crucially, avoid the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal on 29 March.”

According to new data collected by the Russell Group Universities, there has already been a decrease in the number of EU students enrolling on courses in the UK this academic year. Russell Group Senior Policy Analyst Dr Hollie Chandler identifies the UK’s decision to leave the EU and the subsequent uncertainty about the relationship between the two, to be likely to be a contributing factor:

“50,000 EU staff and 130,000 EU students, not to mention the 15,000 UK students studying in Europe, are starting the new year facing significant uncertainty about their futures,” the letter reads. The University of Glasgow, whose principal Sir Anton Muscatelli has also signed the letter, has tweeted that “A No Deal Brexit is one of the biggest threats the sector has ever faced.”

A recent survey conducted by The Glasgow Guardian has revealed that 83% of students at the University of Glasgow do not feel represented by the Brexit vote. Another Glasgow Guardian survey similarly revealed that more than three quarters of EU students who participated in another survey claimed to have been put off applying for work or further study in the UK.