Post-Brexit: UK universities face uncertainties<p>Approaching Brexit prompts UK elite universities to take a stand on potential difficulties with EU academics retention and recruitment.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">In a <a title="policy statement" href="https://russellgroup.ac.uk/news/brexit-and-eu-academics/" target="_blank">policy statement</a> published on 8 August 2019, the Russel Group urged the British Government to clarify the legal status of EU academics working or studying at UK universities in order to prevent a Brexit-related academic exodus.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"> </p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The Russel Group is an association of 24 British public research universities. Its members comprise amongst others the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford and the London School of Economics.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"> </p> <p style="text-align: justify;">With the prospect of a no-deal Brexit growing, the Russel Group took a closer look at the recent evolution of EU academics’ flows to and from UK universities. The cause of concern: A shift in mobility patterns since the referendum in 2016. To that end, the authors referred to the latest data of the UK Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA). Indeed: the findings suggest that the referendum has had an impact on the number of Europeans choosing or leaving Russel Group universities.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"> </p> <p style="text-align: justify;">In 2017/2018, the general number of EU academics working in the UK increased by 4%. However, this represents the lowest growth level for more than a decade, compared to e.g. 12% in 2013/2014. It is interesting to note that while growth of EU academics continued to fall after the referendum in 2015/2016, the numbers of non-EU and UK academics have been continuously increasing over the same period. This suggests a specific impact of the referendum on EU researchers and students. </p> <p style="text-align: justify;"> </p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The division into incoming and leaving academic staff provides further interesting insights. Looking at EU academics leaving the UK, the latest numbers show an 11% rise between 2015/2016 and 2016/2017. According to the Russel Group, this number is particularly striking given the declining growth rate of incoming EU academics: With 3% for the same period, it is far lower than the growth of EU persons leaving. In the same years, the numbers of non-EU and UK academics leaving Russel Group universities “only” increased by 4% and 5% respectively.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"> </p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The Russel Group further identified differences between academic disciplines: In 2016/2017, “strategically important subjects” such as biosciences, physics, chemistry and engineering, have been particularly affected since the proportion of EU nationals made up a “disproportionately high percentage of staff leaving posts”.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"> </p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Other HESA findings suggest that since the referendum, UK universities are confronted with increasing difficulties in attracting EU academics directly from abroad. More precisely, the recruitment proportion of EU academics that are already based in the UK is rising compared to EU academics recruited from abroad.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"> </p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The Russel Group concluded that without legal certainty about EU academics’ resident status, it is only a matter of time until flows are reversed and the number of EU academics leaving British universities exceeds the number of those newly arriving. Therefore, it urged the British government to address the situation “as a matter of urgency” and to adopt corresponding legislations providing legal guarantees over residency and working rights of EU citizens.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"> </p> <p style="text-align: justify;">On the one hand, the Russel Group welcomed the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) as a first step to that end. The EUSS has been introduced to allow EU, EEA and Swiss nationals already living in the UK as well as their close family members to apply for settled status in the UK after its departure from the EU. However, the Russel Group emphasised the importance of enshrining the EUSS in British law to provide legal certainty and prevent the intensification of problems with retaining and recruiting EU academic staff.  On the other hand, the group also <a title="statement" href="https://russellgroup.ac.uk/news/new-visa-route-announced/" target="_blank">expressed</a> its satisfaction with the announced new fast-track visa route for elite researchers and scientists. It emphasised the measure’s role as a key instrument in making the UK “a more attractive destination to global talent and bolster its position as a world leader in research”.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"> </p> <p style="text-align: justify;">In the weeks following the statement, the Russel Group did not miss the opportunity to take a position on other announced post-Brexit UK migration policies.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"> </p> <p style="text-align: justify;">First, it <a title="statement" href="https://russellgroup.ac.uk/news/no-deal-brexit-immigration-plans/" target="_blank">criticised</a> in the beginning of September the <a title="legislation" href="https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-announces-immigration-plans-for-no-deal-brexit" target="_blank">plans of the British Government</a> for EU immigration in the case of a no-deal Brexit. Policy Manager Dr Hollie Chandler showed particular concern that the proposed European Temporary Leave to Remain (Euro TLR) scheme would “impact on the ability of British universities to recruit talented students and staff from across the EU”. The Euro TLR foresees the allowance for EU, EEA and Swiss citizens who move to the UK after a no-deal Brexit to live, study and work there for three years. According to Dr Chandler, there was no guarantee that EU students arriving after 31 October 2019 would be able to enrol on and complete courses with a duration of more than 3 years. Instead, the Russel Group suggests the application of Settlement Scheme rights (see above).</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"> </p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Looking at the latest developments, the British Government announced the introduction of a <a title="announced legislation" href="https://www.gov.uk/government/news/worlds-largest-genetics-research-project-to-fight-deadly-diseases-and-offer-new-offer-for-international-students" target="_blank">new two-year post-study work visa</a> on 11 September 2019. This instrument will allow international students having successfully completed a degree from a UK university to stay in the country for two subsequent years to find work. According to the Government, the aim of this new visa is to “help recruit and retain the best and brightest global talent” besides opening up “opportunities for future breakthroughs […] that international talents bring to the UK”. <a title="statement" href="https://russellgroup.ac.uk/news/fantastic-news-on-post-study-work/" target="_blank">In response</a> to the Government’s announcement, the Russel Group welcomed the new visa type as a “fantastic news” and an “encouraging example” of different UK political and academic institutions working together to protect the country’s global outlook, soft power and entrepreneurial talent.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"> </p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Regarding the participation of British researchers in Horizon 2020 projects, UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) Brussels-based UK Research Office (UKRO) is maintaining a <a title="UKRO factsheet" href="https://www.ukro.ac.uk/Documents/factsheet_brexit.pdf?pubdate=20190810" target="_blank">factsheet</a> providing the latest information on the current situation. If the Withdrawal Agreement is ratified before Brexit, UK participation in Horizon 2020 will be ensured until the end of the programme. In the event of a no-deal scenario, different rules will apply depending on whether UK bids to EU calls have been submitted before 31 October 2019 or after. In case of the latter, the funding for successful UK bids will be guaranteed not by the EU but by UKRI itself, which has been appointed to administer the UK’s guarantee and post-EU exit extension. The funding then will be ensured for the lifetime of such projects, even if they last beyond 2020.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"> </p> <p> </p>Brexit, United Kingdom, Russel Group, recruitment, mobility, EU, elite universitieshttps://www.swisscore.org/Lists/Public/Article/DispForm.aspx?ID=11642019-09-10T22:00:00ZscArticle{DC75DC8B-6EDF-E911-80D7-005056B7191C}https://www.swisscore.org/Lists/Public/ArticleImages/UK-EU.png, https://www.swisscore.org/Lists/Public/ArticleImages/UK-EU.png