Newsletter
Back view of man presenting to students at a lecture theatre

UK Universities Face Brexit Talent Drain

by -

British universities are coming under pressure to retain their key overseas staff following the country’s decision to sever links with Brussels.

Uncertainty As Exit Terms Remain Unclear

Deans say being able to attract and retain the best talent from across the Continent is vital to their institutions’ continued success. The Russell Group of elite UK universities, which employ 25,000 staff, said they are “indispensable to our world-class institutions”. “We value them highly and want them to stay, but they urgently need solid guarantees about their future,” the Russell Group warned last week.

Brexit is a big issue for the 34,000 academics working in the UK who have come from elsewhere in Europe. But they face uncertainty over their future in Britain as the terms of the exit deal remain unclear.

“A lot of organisations – not just universities – feel that there will be a moment when either some form of deal is likely or no deal is likely. And at the ‘no deal is likely’ moment – it could be in December, it could be four weeks away – then people will start to make some big decisions about their futures,” said Stuart Croft, vice-chancellor of Warwick University, in an interview with The Guardian on Wednesday.

“For all of us in different organisations, that could be really, really uncomfortable. And four weeks is really not a very long time. We absolutely need a deal.

“I cannot imagine how it has happened that a vote to leave has been turned into a possibility of a vote to leave with no agreement, no plan for the future.”

Warwick employs around 800 EU staff including professors and senior researchers.

Applications From EU Students Fall

Universities are not only concerned with losing their star faculty but also the international students, whose diversity enriches the learning experience. Diversity has long been a source of pride for Britain’s academic institutions, which have done very well indeed with the rise of globalisation.

But UCAS, the UK’s university admissions service, said that EU applications to UK higher education institutions had fallen by 7% for 2017/18.

Education research group QS warned that EU students’ concerns over their job prospects post-Brexit were deterring them from studying in the UK. “Where students do not express pessimism, they express uncertainty about visa regulations, work permits, and EU funding grants,” QS wrote in its report. “The findings provide a reminder to the UK government that clarity of intention is necessary if the UK is to avoid seeing its market share of international students drop.”

Pound’s Plunge Makes UK Degrees More Attractive

One bright spot for UK higher education has been the fall in the value of the pound, making degrees priced in sterling cheaper. In a survey by Hobsons of 44,000 prospective international students, 61% suggested that the weak pound make UK higher education more attractive.

Jeremy Cooper, managing director of Hobsons in EMEA, said: “In the wake of Brexit, the UK Higher Education sector faces a period of uncertainty. However, international students still represent a significant strategic opportunity for UK universities.

“Market conditions for international student recruitment look set to toughen, and universities need to send a clear message that the UK welcomes international students, as well as providing practical guidance and support.”

Note: The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of Alvexo on the matter.