Brexit and the Higher Education discussion

The Quadrangle at Newcastle University.
Image: Flickr, Chris Thomson.The Quadrangle at Newcastle University. Image: Flickr, Chris Thomson.

Senior figures from North Eastern and Scottish universities have attended a government held meeting to discuss the impact that exiting the European Union will have on higher education.

7% nationwide drop in applications from European Union nations for British university places.

Northumbria University is ‘bucking the trend’ with a reported increase in applications of 39%.

Shirley Atkinson, vice-chancellor at Sunderland University; Professor Tony Stevenson, deputy vice-chancellor at Newcastle University; Professor Andrew Wathey CBE, vice-chancellor at Northumbria; Alastair Sim, director of Universities Scotland; and Dr Peter Simpson, director of the N8 Research Partnership met with the government’s Education Committee, at Northumbria University on Tuesday.

The meeting was the last of three held by the government with universities across the country to in an attempt to aid Brexit negotiations.

Sitting on the committee was Chair, Neil Carmichael MP (Conservative); MP for Newcastle North, Catherine McKinnell (Labour), Marion Fellows MP (SNP); Lillian Greenwood MP (Labour); and William Wragg MP (Conservative).

Professor Wathey CBE highlighted that nationwide, there had been a 7% drop in applications from the European Union for 2017 entry. Despite this Wathey stated that Northumbria University was “bucking the trend” reporting a 39% increase in EU applicants during the same period.

Sunderland saw a decrease of 7-8% at University of Sunderland, in line with the national average according to Shirley Atkinson. Despite this, Sunderland accepted more European students than they had done in previous years, Atkinson told the committee.

Scotland also saw a decrease in applications, 5% down from the previous year.

Shirley Atkinson said:

“We have a decline in international students, with 43 universities recording lower number of applications from EU countries. There will also be a decline from after Brexit happens: students not being able to access student loan support, so a contraction there in a period when we have a significant democratic decline in the UK among 18 year-olds.”

Dr Peter Simpson suggested:

“It is worth pointing out that the vast majority of the international students are not from the EU, and therefore, to some extent not directly affected by Brexit, but the tone and the language that is being used will cause them to think twice and thrice as to whether they want to come to study in the UK.”

Atkinson also suggested that:

“There is a wider issue about reputation of British universities in the world now as a result of the Brexit vote. Unfortunately, it is being played back in some quarters as Britain not being open and prepared to share, not interested in having mobility of students or staff, and the longer-term implications of that kind of reputational damage needs to be picked up.”

The content of all three meetings will be compiled into a report which will be released by the government in the near future.

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