Underlining the concerns of the UK’s higher education community since the EU referendum, it appears that a “brain drain” is likely, as more than 40 percent of UK-based academics say they may consider opportunities outside the country as a result of Brexit.
In a recent survey commissioned by the University and College Union (UCU), around 1,000 lecturers and professors at UK universities were asked for their views on Brexit and the Higher Education and Research Bill.
Up to 42 percent said they were more likely to consider leaving the country after the Brexit vote, while the percentage was much higher among non-UK EU nationals, at 76 percent.
Based on figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency, EU nationals account for about 16 percent of academic staff at UK institutions.
Among the respondents, 29 percent of them reported that some of their colleagues had already left or are planning to leave the UK, while 44 percent said they knew of academics who had lost research funding and partnerships due to Brexit.
Most of those who took part in the survey believe that Brexit will have a negative impact on the UK’s higher education landscape – a resounding 90 percent, in fact.
Commenting on the findings, UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said in a statement: “I am deeply worried that so many academics already know of staff leaving as a result of the Brexit vote, and that three-quarters of EU nationals are now considering leaving the UK.
“The government must focus its full attention on dealing with the impacts of Brexit and shelve the divisive HE bill. Its first act should be to try and retain the talented academics working in this country by guaranteeing EU staff already working in the UK the right to remain.”
In the same survey, 81 percent of respondents said the government’s plans to give private education start-ups quicker and easier access to degree-awarding powers, as outlined in the Higher Education and Research Bill currently being put before Parliament, will also have a negative impact on the sector’s reputation.
The same could be said for the Teaching Excellence Framework, a tiered system which the government is using to judge whether an institution can raise its tuition fees in line with inflation – slightly more than three-quarters have their doubts on its effectiveness.
Using student satisfaction to measure teaching quality would be ineffective, according to 63 percent of respondents, while 55 percent and 59 percent respectively echoed the sentiment for graduate employment and dropout rates.
“The level of concern among staff about the bill’s plans must be cause for alarm. We have to have robust requirements for new higher education providers in order to safeguard the UK’s global academic reputation,” added Hunt.
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