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Mass Exodus of Staff Threatens UK Universities

Posted by Richard Ward in , ,

Image courtesy of Flickr, Creative Commons

The government is being urged to act quickly or risk a post-Brexit brain drain, which could detrimentally impact the international competitiveness of the UK's university sector.

A new report by the Commons education committee calls for the working rights of 32,000 university staff from EU countries to be guaranteed as a matter of urgency.

The report suggests government should be willing to unilaterally agree the rights of EU nationals in the UK before the end of the year, even without a reciprocal deal in place.

Without such a guarantee, there are concerns they may be a mass exodus of talented EU staff leaving the UK for competitor countries.

Initiating the report, Neil Carmichael, the Conservative chairman of the committee, said: "Higher education in the UK is a world leader, but Brexit risks damaging our international competitiveness and the long-term success of our universities."

Published on Tuesday, the report highlights a survey undertaken by the University and College Union (UCU), which indicated 76% of European academics in UK universities said they were more likely to consider leaving the sector because of the referendum.

A separate poll found 53% of non-UK nationals were actively seeking to leave the UK altogether, whilst reports suggest staff from the EU were rejecting job offers due to the uncertainty about Brexit.

In addition to guaranteeing EU workers' rights, the report calls for overseas students to be removed from net migration targets and reform of the immigration system to promote movement to and from UK higher-education.

They've also urged the government to ensure funding for research associated with EU's Horizon 2020 project is matched, in case access to the scheme and other frameworks stops.

Commenting on the report, Sally Hunt, the UCU general secretary, said: "Along with international students, overseas staff make a huge contribution to UK society and I call on the government to end their uncertainty or risk damaging the UK's ability to attract staff and students from around the world."