‘People in this country have had enough of experts’ Michael Gove famously proclaimed before the Brexit referendum. Now, with the UK on the cliff-edge of leaving the European Union and facing a consequential ‘brain drain’ of fleeing academics, Open Forum Events is collaborating with some of the UK’s leading higher education experts and Brexit strategists to present Brexit: Graduating the European Union.
Changes to infrastructure, funding, international-intake, mobility and research are on the horizon. Institutions across Britain are already reporting the toughest ever student recruitment season as a decline in UK school leavers choosing to continue their studies and a drop-off in interest from EU students has resulted in a sharp fall in university applications for the first time since 2012.
Brexit: Graduating the European Union will analyse, strategise and find compromise amidst one of the most complex social, economic and political shift in British history. In contrast to the general tone of pessimism that has been set by Brexit, Graduating the European Union is looking to identify not just the consequences, but also the potential opportunities afforded to the UK’s Higher Education sector by leaving the European Union.
Open Forum Events have sourced industry-leading experts to present their vision for the delivery of post-Brexit Higher Education, how to alleviate the strains put on the sector by the result of last year’s referendum, as well as the possible benefactors of a positive post-Brexit landscape; a weaker pound and the opportunity to strike up new partnerships with institutions from established and emerging nations.
Britain’s Universities face a tumultuous period to say the least. When 51.89% of the electorate voted to leave the European Union on June 23rd, 2016, no one could pinpoint the effects of doing so with much, or any clarity.
Now, more than a year later, a clear vision of post-Brexit Britain is still clouded by the bureaucratic fog between Parliament and Brussels.
How will changes to immigration policy affect UK institutions? Will British universities still have access to European research funding? Can the current tuition fee-system withstand Brexit? What should an exit deal include as it pertains to the HE sector?
With the looming prospect of leaving the EU, Britain has a top of the class reputation to maintain amidst a competitive, expanding international market.
The UK boasts world-leading universities and staff that provide some of the most prestigious expertise in academia; contributing an annual output of £73billion to the British economy and generating 2.8% of UK GDP. Universities create more than 750,000 jobs for domestic and international workers, resulting in £11billion of export earnings for the UK on an annual basis.
Though the UK is home to just 0.9% of the world’s population, it is responsible for producing 15.9% of the world’s most widely-cited academic articles and its scientific research institutions are ranked second in the world in terms of quality academic research produced. After Brexit, the UK’s access to vital research funding is under threat, with the British government possibly having to front £2.2billion to negate the financial backlash on the research and innovation sector.
Amongst the issues facing Higher Education in the wake of Brexit is the funding and fees of university qualifications. A report commissioned by the Higher Education Policy Institute forecasts an increase in costs for EU students after 2020 that could see them paying comparable fees as those studying here from further abroad; potentially resulting in a 57% drop-off in European enrolments. Currently, EU students are eligible to pay the same tuition fees as domestic students (capped at £9.250). However, following Britain’s exit, students from the 27 European Union member states could face tuition fees in line with international students from further abroad; up to £35,000.
British institutions are facing the possibility of losing their right to participate in student exchange and research programmes like Erasmus and Horizon 2020; potentially tasking the UK’s government with the mammoth undertaking of establishing alternative domestic schemes to replace them. Since its inception in 1987, three million Europeans have participated in the Erasmus programme, with 16,000 Britons spending a university semester abroad each year and more than 20,000 EU students coming to the UK. The student exchange programme is one of the most successful EU policies ever enacted and has even created an ‘Erasmus generation’; one million babies born from couples who met on the scheme. However, the UK government is yet to commit itself to future involvement in the programme despite non-EU states such as Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway participating under Article 24 of the Erasmus Regulation.
Student mobility isn’t the only free-movement based problem British universities have encountered since the referendum result; 32,000 professors and academic staff from European Union member states working in the UK are seeking further assurances that their jobs will be secure when Britain leaves the EU in March 2019.
Open Forum Events has assembled a selection of industry experts to contribute insight, strategy and leadership in tackling the gigantic blue and yellow shadow looming over Britain’s Higher Education sector.
Whilst acknowledging that EU students likely face higher fees in line with international students following Brexit, a Higher Education Policy Institute report (the Determinants of International Demand for UK Higher Education, January 2017) suggests that the financial effects of a drop-off in EU student enrolments would be offset by the cost of higher fees from those who continue to come here for study; as well as more non-EU students choosing to study in the UK because of the substantial fall in value of the Pound Sterling after Brexit.
Despite the success of the Erasmus programme, more UK students spend time in the USA, Australia, Canada and China rather than Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Ireland. Britain sends 15,000 students abroad but receives 27,000 in return; and though academics and researchers are concerned that the UK’s substantial EU research funding may dry up after March 2019, 16 non-EU states such as Norway, Israel and Switzerland all receive research-backing from the European Union.
Despite, according to a YouGov poll, 9 out of 10 academic staff thinking Brexit will have a negative impact on the Higher Education system; is it possible Brexit will provide opportunity as well as create consequences?
Changes to Britain’s immigration policy could be one of the defining actions of the Brexit process. The subsequent reaction could signal a significant drop-off in numbers of EU-nationals coming to study in the UK; up to 57% if projections from the Higher Education Policy Institute are correct.
Students from the remaining 27 EU-member states face the possibility of losing their quasi-home status that permits them to pay the same tuition fees (up to £9,250) as British students. Instead, the prospect of being charged fees in-line with non-EU international students (up to £35,000) is a real possibility.
The impact of immigration change on the UK’s universities will be significant if the nation follows the path set by supporters of a ‘hard Brexit’. As such, it will benefit the higher education system to be prepared for the most hard-line version of Brexit and scale-back its reaction accordingly.
The British government will have to replace around £2.2billion of research funding provided by the European Union if it wants to negate the financial backlash of Brexit on the research sector. The government’s commitment to underwrite the UK’s applications for research funding under Horizon 2020, even if the projects outlast Britain’s membership of the EU, was a welcome pledge for Britain’s research sector. However, the pressing matter is what happens after 2020, when the EU begins its next round of research funding?
Additionally, the UK stands to lose out on researchers, not just research funding. Potential changes to immigration control threatens to dramatically cut the number of researchers coming to the UK from the EU; this comes at a time when global demand in the international market is growing and European competitors are looking to boost their own supplies of researchers.
How can the government protect an industry with annual export earnings of well over £10billion?
The government has confirmed that EU students coming to the UK in the 2017/18 academic year will pay the current tuition fees for the duration of their course; regardless of whether Britain leaves the European Union whilst they are enrolled. However if the United Kingdom withdraws from existing agreements on freedom of movement, it is increasingly likely that students from the EU may have to apply for a Tier-4 student visa or short-term study visa’s.
British students are facing a similar issue; posed with potential limits to study, travel and work opportunities in the EU, it’s likely that UK students looking to attend European institutions will lose their eligibility for domestic rates after Brexit.
This session seeks to analyse the various methods of reducing the fiscal strain on university students.
The University of Oxford was the first UK institute to introduce a Head of Brexit Strategy dedicated to identifying opportunities presented by the referendum result and adapting to the rapidly evolving Brexit situation.
Since the June 23rd result, universities across the country have pledged to protect the rights of EU students, secure research funding and guarantee the continuation of European partnerships. However, these pledges often come from standardised open-letters from Vice Chancellors, online FAQs and info-sheets; not professionals solely committed to the institute’s post-Brexit prosperity.
In the final pre-lunch plenary session, attendees can learn from leading authorities in academic institutions equipping themselves to operate after Brexit.
Like other sectors, higher education staff face employee-rights, salary and job security uncertainties following Brexit. As UK institutes are posed with the daunting prospect of dramatically lower EU and domestic student numbers, reduced research funding, an expanding international market, institutes considering moving services abroad and a seemingly daily emergence of fresh problems; how can UK university staff guarantee their place in a post-Brexit higher education sector?
Trump, Brexit, fake-news, post-truth, alternative facts; the world has been barraged by exaggeration and embellishment as of late.
In the age of ‘post-truth’ it can be dizzying to wade through the stacks of facts, figures and statistics quoted over the airwaves and social media. This session will concentrate on the genuine data correlated by legitimate organisations in the wake of Brexit; attempting to paint the most accurate picture of its impact on the sector.
To close the conference out, attendees will have the opportunity to field questions to a panel of experts, consolidating the information they have picked up over the course of the event.
This session is for the audience to be heard rather than listen, at this point, the conference will have painted a clear picture of what is in store for the Higher Education sector after Brexit. The attendees can offer suggestions on what they believe an exit deal should incorporate for the sector as it pertains to; immigration policy, research funding, tuition fees and student mobility.
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