There’s been a couple of good articles this week on how Brexit is likely to affect UK universities. It makes depressing reading. Will Hutton’s piece in the Observer on Sunday is very good – perhaps a bit dramatic. I hadn’t realised how much students contributed to the immigration figures
…last year net migration totalled 336,000. But 169,000 of those were students (netting out incoming students from British students leaving to study abroad). Exclude them and suddenly the net migration total looks back in control – 167,000… I have lost count of the number of international students worried if they are wanted, whether they should apply for graduate studies and scared of the way the atmosphere around them is becoming more hostile.
We depend a lot on international staff too. Peter Scott focuses on this aspect in the Guardian today.
The UK is now established as a nasty country in the world’s imagination. No amount of flummery from the foreign secretary about “openness” can cover that up. Nor can rather more honest claims by universities that they are open to all, Europe and the wider world, as evidenced by the remain votes in the referendum in university cities. It is difficult to imagine why talented scholars and scientists, and students for that matter, should want to make their careers or study in a country unable to admit a handful of refugee children without a tabloid firestorm demanding dental checks.
It’ll be our loss. I’ve asked a few colleagues who’ve moved to the UK to work at universities how they felt about the referendum result. It tends to be a combination of disappointment, distress, anger and anxiety. Some were upset much more than others. All are staying – often they’ve got long-term partners from the UK, children born here and at school etc. As ever, we probably won’t be able to measure the damage because there’ll be so much noise disguising the signal – but it’s hard to see anything but damage.