Risk of mass exodus of EU academic staff after Brexit - report
EU staff in UK universities are uncertain about their future post-Brexit. Pic: Reuters/Peter Nicholls/File Photo.

The United Kingdom could lose a large portion of its academic staff in some major sectors if it pushes through Brexit, a report said.

The British Academy warned the UK would see economics and language departments be particularly badly hit if the talented EU staff leave the UK, The Guardian reported.

More than a third of staff in each discipline are currently from EU countries and the risk of losing them was acute in Northern Ireland, where citizens from grouping comprised a quarter of all academic staff across all subjects. Almost half of the modern languages staff in the West Midlands are from the EU.

The latest warning echoes similar ones by British universities that told the government their talent pool was at risk, with EU staff needed greater clarity on post-Brexit rights if they commit to remain in the UK.

The British Academy, which is widely considered the public voice for the humanities and social sciences, also identified the subjects most at risk as a result of the uncertainty over immigration rules following Brexit.

The report entitled “Brexit Means … ?” said 36 percent of economists and 35 percent of academics in modern language departments in the UK are from EU countries. This is followed by mathematics (29 percent), physics (28 percent), classics and chemical engineering (26 percent) and politics and international relations (25 percent).

Pro-EU demonstrators take part in an anti-Brexit march in Brighton, UK. Source: Reuters/Toby Melville

Pro-EU demonstrators take part in an anti-Brexit march in Brighton, UK. Source: Reuters/Toby Melville

The report also said six out of the top “at risk” 10 subjects with the highest numbers of EU staff are in the humanities and social sciences. It also warned that the humanities would be among the hardest hit by changes to immigration rules after Brexit.

Professor Ash Amin, the head of geography at Cambridge University and acts as foreign secretary for the British Academy, was quoted as saying it is critical for the government to address the uncertainties.

“Today’s report depicts precisely what is at stake: the UK’s position as a world leader in higher education and research.”

“That the UK attracts such a high proportion of staff from abroad is a testament to the competitiveness of the humanities and social sciences. Many of the people from this talent pool will be asking themselves: do I see the future of my career in this country?

“We are calling on the government to guarantee a right to remain indefinitely for non-UK EU academics and their dependents working here.”

UK universities employ almost 40,000 non-UK EU staff who make up 12 percent of all full-time equivalent staff in the higher education sector.

Most of the foreign staff work in London and south-east England where more than 17,000 are employed while 4,500 work in Scotland, according to The Guardian.

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