As you will be aware, the Prime Minister has announced that she plans to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty this Wednesday (29 March 2017). This will signify the formal start of the two-year negotiation for the terms of Britain’s exit from the European Union.
Given the UK will remain in the EU for the next two years, there will be no immediate change for universities, staff or students. However, the vote to leave the European Union has understandably resulted in questions and concerns. Many of the questions about the implications of Brexit for higher education are difficult to answer as they will depend on the outcome of the negotiations and what kind of relationship the UK agrees with the EU.
The Universities UK (UUK) website has a Brexit FAQs webpage, which you may find it useful. It addresses many of the main questions being asked, such as:
- Will UK universities still be able to employ staff from other EU countries?
- Will EU students still be able to study at UK universities?
- Will EU students continue to be eligible to receive loans and grants?
- What about students participating in the Erasmus+ exchange programme
The Government’s recent White Paper on Brexit principles included some relatively positive signals in relation to the value of international talent and international collaboration for universities. However, there are as yet no formal policy proposals or negotiating positions confirmed on the key issues for universities. UUK have stated that their primary objective at this time is to influence government to move from giving positive signals to firm policy positions in line with universities’ priorities.
UUK’s priorities are set out in detail in their recent briefing paper: What should be the Government’s priorities for exit negotiations and policy development to maximise the contribution of British universities to a successful and global UK?
The paper highlights that the two most immediate priorities that they are urging Government to take action to address are:
- Confirmation of rights to reside and work in the UK post-exit for EU nationals that are currently working in the university sector and their dependents
- Confirmation that EU students starting a course in 2018/19 and 2019/20 will continue to be eligible for home fee status, and be eligible for loans and grants
Staff and students from EU countries make a vital contribution to university research and teaching and have a positive impact on the British economy and society. We will be working closely with UUK over the coming period and lobbying to ensure that the UK remains welcoming and that we can continue to access collaborative research and exchange networks.