With the dust having settled following the June referendum, the UK seems to be finally getting to grips with the practicalities of Brexit. Our new Prime Minister has made it very clear there will be no second referendum and no alternative membership considered. Whilst markets have found balance again and in some cases returned to pre-referendum levels, other sectors such as Higher Education are still coming to terms with the level of impact a new Britain will have on them.
One of the key considerations for the UK HE sector has been its access to funding and European money which has driven incredible innovation in the sciences over the past 20 years. UK Universities have been involved in ground-breaking research ranging from the discovery of Graphene (http://www.graphene.manchester.ac.uk/) through to major advancements in renewable resources. The proposed inability to access European funds is a concern which has rightfully contributed to widespread uncertainty; EU money for research no longer accessible will need to be replaced. There is still yet to be any firm commitment from Government on whether they will help plug this gap or, as they have done in recent times, expect Universities to reinvent how they do things and ultimately fend for themselves.
Although only anecdotal, the perception of the UK on the global stage seems to have diminished since June. UK Universities are a major reason for international mobility with students from overseas contributing to financial and cultural benefits. There are few more diverse places than a University campus. Spend time at one and you are likely to meet people from all over the world studying, teaching and carrying out ground-breaking research. If access to free movement is lost, Universities are likely to be worse off both financially and culturally.
As a collective force, can UK Univeristies combine to keep the UK looking globally relevant and conscious? There is certainly a role to play; as the Vice-Chancellors of most UK Universities came together to publish an open-letter before the referendum, they must now too come together to develop a new role for their institutions in pushing the UK forward on the world stage.
Gin Bhandal is a Consultant in the Education Practice at Berwick Partners. He regularly works with Universities to appoint senior leaders across International leadership roles tasked with overseas student recruitment and the development of international partnerships.
Categories: Education Recruitment