UK universities face ‘significant challenge’ following Brexit vote, warns Universities UK

Earlier this morning it was revealed that the British public no longer wants to uphold their nation’s status as a fundamental player in the European Union (EU). Following the results of the historic ‘Brexit’ vote, Britain’s Higher Education (HE) sector will face a series of “significant challenges”, warns the President of Universities UK (UUK).

The news comes just days after VCs of 103 universities penned a powerful open letter to the British public, stating they were “gravely concerned” about the unpredictable impact a Leave vote could have over their students and their universities, and warning voters that the influence of these institutions over local communities and the broader economy “should not be underestimated”.

“Every year, universities generate over £73 billion for the UK economy – £3.7 billion of which is generated by students from EU countries, while supporting nearly 380,000 jobs,” the letter states. “Strong universities benefit the British people – creating employable graduates and cutting-edge research discoveries that improve lives.”

But the news of a looming Brexit does not come as a blow to UK university leaders alone – students also overwhelmingly sided with the Remain campaign, with Referendum polls showing that 75 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds opted to remain a member of the EU, compared to just 40 percent of over 65s.

In the wake of the decision, Professor Dame Julia Goodfellow, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Kent and President of UUK, said the alliance’s first priority will be to urge the UK Government to establish steps that will ensure staff and students from EU-member countries can continue to work, live and study at UK universities on a long-term basis, and to “promote the UK as a welcoming destination for the brightest and best minds”.

“They make a powerful contribution to university research and teaching and have a positive impact on the British economy and society,” the statement continued. “We will also prioritise securing opportunities for our researchers and students to access vital pan-European programmes and build new global networks.

“Leaving the EU will create significant challenges for universities. Although this is not an outcome that we wished or campaigned for, we respect the decision of the UK electorate. We should remember that leaving the EU will not happen overnight – there will be a gradual exit process with significant opportunities to seek assurances and influence future policy.”

The UUK President went on to express that the organisation will continue to adopt a global outlook throughout the Brexit transition period, promoting the UK as an internationally connected network and a desirable study abroad destination for European students. “These features are central to ensuring that British universities continue to be the best in the world,” Goodfellow assures.

Image via Flickr.

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