The Great Exodus

All of us in the United Kingdom, and universities specifically, are still struggling to discern what the practical implications of Brexit will be. We are not helped by the total confusion in the matter right now, with no clear consensus either in the UK government or the opposition as to what should be the desired outcome of the negotiations that began, sort of, in Brussels yesterday.

But as we wait to interpret the occasional clues thrown our way, there are some things we do know. One of these is that EU nationals who work in UK universities, unsure as to what their immigration status will be, are leaving in droves. According to the most recent report in the matter, 1,300 academics who are nationals of EU member states have left British universities in the last year, with Cambridge and Edinburgh the most seriously affected.

Universities are hosts to an international community of scholars. The United Kingdom has recklessly undermined this principle, by leaving unanswered for now the question of whether EU nationals (and indeed others) will still be welcome to work in UK higher education and by suggesting that non-British students may be subjected to tighter immigration restrictions. The excellence that is rightly claimed by British universities will, if this is not addressed very quickly, be fatally compromised. Higher education must not be part of the collateral damage of Brexit.

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10 Comments on “The Great Exodus”


  1. “Higher education must not be part of the collateral damage of Brexit.”

    And why not? Brexit is a form of serious self-harm for the UK. The NIMBY attitude fails to address the wider issue.


    • No NIMBY involved here. I have made it clear here and elsewhere that I regard Brexit to be a disaster overall. But here I am making a specific case for higher education, which after all pays our salaries.


      • Making a special case is NIMBY.


        • Sorry, and I don’t mean to be rude, but that’s nonsense. ‘Not In My Own Back Yard’ means wanting to avoid some facility being in one’s own neighbourhood.

          Making a case for one’s own institution or sector just means doing what we all need to do – protect the viability of an important asset.

          By your logic, protesting about NHS cuts is NIMBY…


          • My logic is fine thank you very much!

            By NIMBY in this context I obviously mean that you are making a special case for your own sector to be protected from the effect of Brexit. I am sure the NHS will do the same for themselves. So will the car industry, the financial sector and farmers etc. It is fairly normal behaviour.

            But the argument you are making is not universal despite the fact that many other sectors will suffer from Brexit. It is that perverse effect that I am pointing out.

            You want professors and students to move around freely around the UK and EU, for Universities to participate in EU-wide projects etc. but you are not making the same case for fruit pickers, nurses or waitresses…

            You know an incinerator is coming but you don’t want it in your own backyard; instead, you should campaign for a review of the decision… [sorry for this rather clumsy example, but since my logic has been called into question…]

            I sincerely hope that the EU-27 will not entertain such a la carte approach as you advocate. Thankfully the French president alluded to this yesterday by saying that the EU is not a supermarket…


          • “…but you are not making the same case for fruit pickers, nurses or waitresses…”

            Who says I’m not? Of course I’m making that case also, and have done so consistently in this blog!


          • OK fine, if you wish, but you are dancing on a pin for when you say “Higher education must not be part of the collateral damage of Brexit.” it implies that other sectors will be but you are not making the case for them.

  2. Vince Says:

    I think some in government and civil service feel that the EU did them bad over somethings and believe that they wouldn’t get a good deal no matter what they did. Otherwise why would they be so stupid as too set a scenario with foreign residents that amounted to defining them as aliens and a real danger.
    You see I thought they would -out the gate- have said that people living in the UK up to the date of leaving and their children will de-facto be given the Right to Remain. This before anything was said by the EU. I think it would’ve set the talks on a humane track. It would’ve put the EU negotiators in a debt position if only morally.

    I note, and welcome, that the Tory party in Scotland are making noises of separation recognizing just how far the country is down that road.


    • Even if EU citizen are granted the same rights they will lose some: e.g. the protection of the ECJ, the certainty of stability from governments to governments.

      • Vince Says:

        That wasn’t my point. Loss of access to the ECJ given subsidiarity isn’t nor would it ever be a question for most.
        Plus, it isn’t nor was it from Europe that came the instruction to starve areas like Boston in Lincolnshire of basic investments. That was entirely a decision from London.
        I think after been told for years that the EU was the black beast when the cause of the problems are -and were- entirely under the control of the home government that you can’t be too shocked if the voters react by believing what they were told. But now they are simply compounding stupidity upon stupidity. It’s like blaming a tap for your thirst.


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