UK universities
Not all UK universities are fully prepared for Brexit; the majority are concerned over the consequences of a no-deal Brexit. Source: Shutterstock

The Brexit dilemma in the UK is still a heated topic, with uncertainties over whether there will be a deal in place when the UK officially leaves the EU continuing to grow.

According to Bloomberg, “The UK is due to leave the EU on Oct. 31, and Johnson has said he is determined to leave the bloc by then, even if that means doing so with no divorce agreement in place.”

A no-deal Brexit means tariffs will be imposed on goods imported from the EU, and the economy could be in jeopardy.

With just over a month to go until October 31, how well are UK universities prepared to handle a possible no-deal Brexit?

A recent study by Universities UK found that half of UK universities (52 percent) feel “fully or very prepared” while the other half (48 percent) only feel “slightly prepared”.

Whether or not they feel prepared, the study found that “more than 80% of universities are either ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ concerned about the impact no-deal will have on their institution.”

Student recruitment and research in UK universities already taking a hit

Universities UK stated that universities are already feeling the potential effects of a no-deal Brexit, as “50% of institutions have experienced a change in demand from EU students, more than 55% have experienced a change in the level of collaboration with overseas partners and almost 60% have lost existing or potential staff members to overseas institutions.”

The findings also showed that “61% of universities believe either student recruitment (34%) or access to research programmes and funding (27%) would be impacted most by no-deal.”

The survey also revealed that 90 percent of universities have already started to communicate with “researchers involved in EU-funded projects to explain the steps taken by government to underwrite EU funding.”

Furthermore, 90 percent of UK universities have ascertained which Erasmus+ mobility programmes will be covered by the European Commission and which are guaranteed by the UK government.

According to The Guardian, “Angela Rayner, Labour’s shadow education secretary, said the survey showed a no-deal Brexit would be disastrous for higher education, affecting student numbers, access to research funding and the future of the nearly one in five UK university academics who are EU nationals.”

UK universities have already started stockpiling

In case the worst-case scenario happens and Britain leaves the EU without a deal, there could be a shortage of food and supplies.

According to the survey, 95 percent of universities have evaluated risks to key supplies and contracts, and are taking preliminary action.

Therefore, several UK universities are stockpiling, or plan to stockpile “essential supplies”, such as toilet paper.

Vice-Chancellors told The Guardian that “they were most immediately concerned about shortages of essential chemicals and gases for their laboratories, while others were looking to stockpile bulk items such as food and toilet paper.”

Some universities are also planning to stockpile food for students who stay in residence halls, while those with teaching hospitals are concerned about a shortage of pharmaceutical and other medical supplies, and are discussing contingency plans with suppliers.

Professor Julia Buckingham, President of Universities UK and Vice-Chancellor of Brunel University London, said, “While the news that universities feel prepared for no-deal in some capacity is reassuring it is clear that the implications of exit under these circumstances remain largely unknown. It is in the government’s power to alleviate many of these concerns.

“Despite working tirelessly to offset the potential implications of no-deal, such an outcome could leave an indelible footprint on the higher education landscape for years to come.”

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