The Higher Education Policy Institute and Times Higher Education joined forces for an essay-writing competition on UK higher education’s place in the European Union. There was a £200 prize for the best entry on each side of the argument, and these essays are printed in full below.
Count the brains, not the pennies: Brexit and higher education
Sarah St. John, PhD student in the Department of Education, University of Glasgow and university administrator at the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, European University Institute
As perhaps the most transnational environment to be found on British soil, the UK university could be one of the worst suffering victims of a Brexit. Its impact on higher education is a multi-faceted argument that often focuses from both sides on economic consequences, but a reduced European presence within the faculty of UK higher education institutions risks graver consequences.
Without the significant proportion of EU nationals currently contributing to the total composition of academic staff in British HEIs, including PhD-student teachers, we can imagine buzzing corridors of academic departments across the UK coming to echo the frantic typing of the lonely British scholars, desperately compensating the lost publications of their EU counterparts.
Really what would happen is that fewer EU nationals would apply for posts in UK academia and they would consequently be offered to their British counterparts. This might seem like an optimal situation for British scholars, but it is not for the university.
While inside the EU, UK universities are in a privileged position that allows them to cherry-pick from a pool of the best scholars across all member states of the European Union. With promising career prospects and good resources as well as a renowned academic reputation, the UK is an attractive destination for European scholars, which makes for a happy marriage between UK universities and EU scholars.
Furthermore, due to difficulties entering academia in their own states and the eventual positive prospects within the UK system, European scholars are more likely to take on more of the numerous non-permanent posts than British scholars, and to accept the sometimes sub-standard conditions they come with.
European scholars are also attractive to UK universities for the broader readership they attract in a wider selection of journals, and for the international research networks they bring, all of which have a positive influence on the research excellence framework (REF). Research carried out with international collaborators is noted to have 50 per cent more impact than research carried out with domestic collaborators.
So, in this case, it is not about the money. It is about the very rationale of a university to produce high quality research and teaching, and in this respect, Brexit reduces British higher education’s ability to function at its full potential.
The best British scholars will already be entering the UK academic world with or without EU scholars, so the posts that would have been occupied by shining EU scholars would instead be awarded to British scholars who would not have been previously accepted. While this is good news for the otherwise rejected scholars, it cannot be denied that universities in the UK would be settling for a lower quality of scholarship. And if it became easier for British scholars to secure an academic post without having to first fight off the eager EU scholars in a hunger-games-style race to the permanent lectureship, would they continue to endeavour to excel quite as much as they are forced to now?
It could be said that competition from EU counterparts currently keeps British scholars on their toes.
The consequences that this potential shift away from the relatively high recruitment of EU scholars in academic posts could pose on British institutions are numerous. It is unclear whether the UK would experience a sort of "reverse brain-drain" of scholars returning to Europe.
This is bound to depend on the ease of living outside of the European Union. It will perhaps be easier for those in permanent positions, but those holding fixed-term contracts may find their permanence in the UK challenging. For sure, there is a risk of brakes being applied to the current brain-drain from the EU to the UK. This will be beneficial for EU universities, which will be more likely to retain their scholars and better their knowledge economies, but a reduced brain-drain to Britain cannot be positive for the British knowledge economy.
British academia can compete well on the global level thanks to its ability to attract the best scholars from Europe. Being able to compete globally means having a capacity to build an internationally recognised intellectual reputation through publication in wider-read journals and to be able to apply and win external research funding from wider sources, which in turn facilitates the provision of resources for advancements in medical, technological, cultural and intellectual research.
Development in these areas sets a nation a cut above the rest not only in the commercial world, which helps strengthen the financial economy, but also from the perspective of developing a deeper understanding of the cultural world. This assists in making sense of complex issues surrounding terrorism and immigration.
Moreover, it can be said that the wider British society is benefitting from this abundant intellectual community at its disposal.
The rich profile of scholars in British institutions is responsible for the education of young people in Britain, principally those at university following degree programmes, but they are also responsible for teaching the teachers who will go into the local schools across Britain, shaping and creating an identity in the learning population across the country, which ultimately fosters the intellectual and national identity of the nation. For this reason, it is imperative that the brightest scholars are found in UK institutions, and that these scholars are not predominantly British in order for an open-mindedness and cultural awareness to seep into British society.
Education shapes the way a population perceives and understands the world. Does Britain want to face the long-term consequences of an inward-facing, potentially intolerant society? This will do the nation no favours in the long run.
A society’s education is too important to jeopardise. It is not money making the world go around; education makes the world work by creating educated individuals who know how to make the most of the money available.
So rather than counting the pennies lost to Europe and looking for a way out, Britain should worry about the potentially significant intellectual loss that will heavily dent British higher education if Brexit becomes reality.
In defence of Brexit: no need for universities to fear the future or democracy
Lee Jones, senior lecturer in international politics at Queen Mary University of London, and Chris Bickerton, lecturer in Politics at the University of Cambridge
The debate on Britain’s European Union membership has been risible, dominated by "Project Fear" on both sides. Sadly that is also true of Universities UK’s Universities for Europe campaign, which unilaterally commits Britain’s universities to the Bremain side, warning of disastrous consequences for higher education if Britain leaves.
Most of UUK’s claims simply don’t stack up. Most importantly, our fate would not be determined automatically by Brexit, but rather by what the British people democratically determine to do afterwards.
UUK’s entirely utilitarian case against Brexit is as follows: over 200,000 UK students have benefited from the Erasmus programme; over 125,000 EU students currently study at UK universities, generating £2.27 billion for the UK economy and 19,000 jobs; 15,000 of our academics are from other EU states; and the UK does well from EU research funding. UUK also strains (unconvincingly) to attribute the total economic activity universities generate to "EU support".
Aside from the arrogance involved in committing universities en masse to a political position without any consultation with scholars or students, UUK’s case against Brexit is fundamentally weak.
The Erasmus statistics are irrelevant. Participation in the programme is not tied to EU membership. It currently has 927 partner institutions in 37 countries – including but not limited to the EU’s 28 member-states.
EU students and staff certainly enrich our campuses in every sense. But why should this end with Brexit? They come to Britain because our universities are world-class institutions that, relative to the vast majority of continental institutions, are thriving. EU students keep coming despite massive fee increases, while the Euro-crisis has only intensified the influx of talented European scholars.
Post-Brexit, student and staff migration would remain possible: student visas will still exist, and a prospective points-based immigration system would doubtless maintain access for highly-educated scholars.
Indeed, the flexibility that Brexit would create around immigration policy could correct serious inequities caused by EU strictures. Since EU member-states cannot control intra-EU migration, any UK government wishing to reduce immigration must curb non-EU immigration. Accordingly, EU citizens are free to enter the UK, but many non-white non-EU citizens face enormous hurdles.
This increasingly prevents British universities recruiting the best and brightest students and staff regardless of national origin. Current and prospective students face regular harassment from the UK Border Agency, while non-EU staff like Paul Hamilton and Miwa Hirono have been deported and others endure daily surveillance to meet strict visa rules. Doubtless, this ultimately reflects anti-immigration sentiment. But EU membership has only fuelled these attitudes by reducing national control over migration policy.
Most importantly, if migration rules or EU student fees did change after Brexit, crucially, that would not be an automatic side-effect of the referendum. How could it be? The referendum is purely on EU membership – it does not commit subsequent governments to any other policy position.
Decisions on these and any other issues would be made by democratically elected governments and thus, ultimately, by the British people. Claims that Brexit will definitely produce xenophobia tells us more about what Britons think of each other than anything about the costs and benefits of EU membership.
As for research funding, UUK state that the UK received £687 million in EU research funding in 2013/14, rightly stating that we do disproportionately well, securing 15.5 per cent of funding under FP7 and 20 per cent of European Research Council awards. This, UUK rightly says, fosters positive international mobility and collaboration.
But let’s put this in perspective. UK universities’ total research income in 2013/14 was £11.2bn. The EU supplied just 6.1 percent of this. Its loss would hardly kill off British academia.
Britain is successful in securing EU funding because it has such a strong scientific base; it is not EU funding that created that base. And again, there is nothing to stop the British people deciding to increase research funding post-Brexit, reversing the long-term cuts that account for the EU’s growing share. Again, it is a decision for us, not something pre-determined by the referendum outcome.
Moreover, it is not even obvious that Brexit would sever access to EU research funding. Non-EU states like Switzerland have negotiated agreements to give their universities access to Horizon 2020 funds. They are also members of the European Research Infrastructure Consortium, where since 2013 they have enjoyed equal rights with EU members.
If Israeli institutions can win €203m in EU grants, why couldn’t Britain continue to access international funding and participate in cross-border collaborative research? Suggesting that Brexit would end this collaboration assumes that European researchers will somehow be unable to find new ways to work together or will even shun their British counterparts to "punish" them. This entirely ignores the history of scientific collaboration, where even dramatic obstacles like wars did not deter cross-border cooperation to learn more about the world.
Where is the faith in the internationalism of scientific research among academics today?
Most importantly of all, when scientists wail that their "lab would fall apart" outside the EU, the ultimate response must be: the referendum isn’t about your lab; it is about democracy. Its consequences, either way, are so vast and wide-ranging that this is the most significant political decision that will occur in our lifetimes. We all have our own interests, including our research, but we are also citizens. We must look further than our own nose ends and think about more than pounds and pence in reaching our decisions about fundamental political issues.
This referendum is an opportunity for the British people to take their future back into their own hands. That future, crucially, is not pre-determined by the referendum outcome. If we want more open borders, more internationalisation, and better funded research, we can still have them. It will be up to us to decide collectively.
Rather than hiding these preferences behind fake arguments about economic and scientific necessity, academics should fight to win over the public to their point of view. That way, Brexit could not only restore national democracy but also enhance the role of scholars in public life.
BREXIT: A VERY BRITISH REVOLUTION
Similarities abound between the shocking election of Donald Trump to the president of the United States and the United Kingdom’s equally shocking approval of Brexit. Brexit is an abbreviation of “British exit,” and refers to the UK’s plan to depart the European Union. The official referendum was held throughout England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on June 23, 2016, and the decision by popular vote was to leave. Those that support the measure to leave are called ‘Brexiters’ and they came out on top in all four UK countries.
- England voted Leave: 53.4% to 46.6%
- Wales voted Leave: 52.5% to 47.5%
- Scotland voted Remain: 62% to 38%
- Northern Ireland voted Remain: 55.8% to 44.2%
Reasons for Brexit
The greatest risk of Brexit is that no another country has ever departed from the union before. The pros and cons of any country leaving — or four countries at once — are merely projections. Only time can tell whether the countries will actually do what Brexit campaigners told them it would.
Brexit campaigners told their constituents that the UK will no longer be responsible for paying into the budget of the European Union. That’s true, but they probably won’t be saving as much as they were told. In 2015, the UK would have been liable for £18 billion in contributions but thanks to a rebate program set up by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher they also received an instant £5 billion rebate. Add to that the £4.5 billion that the EU spent in the UK in 2015 and that brings the net contribution down to about £8.5 billion.
Despite cries from their fellow countrymen and several world leaders, Brexiters make up a worrying percentage of the population who subscribe to the growing trend of nationalism around the globe. The vote to leave the EU signifies a growing distrust in worldwide trade and commerce organizations.
With more sovereignty comes more dominion over trade agreements for the UK but it also means a loss of leverage when it comes to negotiating their own deals in the future. Optimists see it as an opportunity for the UK to reinvent itself as a Singapore-style super economy, while detractors feel that Britain has now lost the ability to leverage its place in the EU to create better deals. 443 UK will remain a member of both NATO and the UN, but even there Remain voters worry that their influence will now be weak.
Yet another trigger that put Brexit on the ballot was the immigration crises that swept across Europe in the last couple years. While those that support the EU say that it’s a moral obligation of the wealthier countries to aid immigrants with placements and jobs, all Brexiters saw was an influx of immigrants that seemed to never end. After an annual increase of about 285,000 people per year (raising the population by about 0.4% every year), in 2015 that number reached 333,000 immigrants (184,000 of whom were from the EU). Despite the nationalistic, and possibly racist-seeming undertones of a vote against immigration, Brexiters say that they worry about the impact of job-seekers moving around Europe, changing the economic landscape. It’s the kind of nationalistic attitude does not reflect that of the globally-minded EU and probably a good reason why no another country is willing to be labeled racist and elitist in exchange for sovereignty.
Leaders of Brexit
One of Theresa May’s initial moves after David Cameron’s departure was to appointment foreign secretary and leader of the official Leave campaign, Boris Johnson, to her official department responsible for carrying out the will of the people. Joining him there are veteran Conservative MP and Leave campaigner David Davis, and international trade secretary, Liam Fox. The three men were colloquially dubbed the Three Brexiters by the media and made to look like the Three Stooges by left-aligned media.
Main Facts on the Brexit Process
Britain could break from the UK by 2019, but being the first time in history that Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty—the necessary catalyst to Brexit—will be invoked, and given the complexity the deals being unraveled, an extension wouldn’t be surprising. At a glance, this is what an un-interrupted Brexit process could look like.
Source – www.bbc.co.uk
The Results of Brexit
Some see this referendum as a wake-up call that rising inequality and low growth can and will promote frustration among citizens who yearn not only for a voice but also “something different”. The Brexit ballot, offering only a “Leave” or “Remain” options was won by 52% to 48%. Although one side won over the other, the referendum was not won by a significant majority, and certainly not unanimous.
Immediately following the referendum, the pound fell to its lowest value in decades. But most of the UK was ready for some backlash from a market that hates sudden change. But the greatest surprise was how quickly former Prime Minister, David Cameron, stepped down from his post follow the loss of the Brexit referendum. That left, Theresa May, former home secretary, as the new Prime Minister. May has stated officially that she intends to carry out the will of the people and continue with the pre-Brexit procedures.
Meaning of Brexit for the World and the UK
While leaving the EU will allow Britain to re-establish itself as a truly independent nation, Britons will eventually have to limit the amount of work, travel or leisure that they currently enjoy within EU borders. Some Remain voters liken it to turning back the clock to pre-WWII when European countries did all of their waring and tradings independently. What Brexit means immediately is a lot of waiting and watching for countries that trade with the UK and investors who have money there.
One thing to note is that Britain’s economy is strong enough that no one needs to expect a sudden collapse or burst bubble. As the EU amputates one of it’s strongest limbs — so strong they never did take on the Euro as their local currency — care and time will be taken not make the ordeal more painful than it has to be.
Why Is Brexit Such a Big Deal?
Besides setting a precedent for being the first member to officially leave the European Union, the reason why Brexit is such a big deal is that we just don’t know how it will turn out yet. It’s a big, dramatic move that will take years to complete; years of shifts that will impact the pound and European markets along the way. It will certainly make the UK countries seem less hospitable to new immigrants but whether Brexit will deter terrorism, buoy the economy and make the UK stronger through independence has yet to be seen. So maybe the big deal is just not knowing the extent of the impact on jobs, homes, trade relationships with other countries and whether countries outside of the union will see a fragmented Europe as a weakened one. One that, say, might give up some power over the Balkan states to Russia.
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