Representatives of local academia in Tower Hamlets have spoken out against Brexit proceedings, speaking in a commission hearing at Canary Wharf as part of a panel of local business, education and public sector experts.
Mayor John Biggs who organised the commission has vocally opposed Brexit in the past, frequently releasing reports detailing the beneficial, non-disruptive residency many EU-nationals hold in the borough.
Representatives from both Queen Mary University and Tower Hamlets College spoke of the severe challenges Brexit will pose to the area’s local residents and educational facilities.
“We have an enormous concern for the escalation in hate-crime in the area,” said Alison Arnaud, Borough Principal at Tower Hamlets College.
“This is a very diverse borough; more than 80% of our learners are Muslim. Anything that reports intolerance tacitly is something we need to be planning and preparing for”.
“In addition to this, 27% of our 16-18 year old students are European passport holders, so there is concern about that.” Arnaud said.
“The risks of Brexit are extremely stark for us,” added Professor Colin Grant of Queen Mary University.
“There will be a significant economic impact, but also a social impact which we take very seriously. Queen Mary ranks in the top 25 universities in the world for its international outlook: the mobility of its young people really matters to us. We are an anchor institution in one of the most deprived boroughs in London”.
“Our students are drawn from 162 nationalities,” Grant said. “60% of our intake is from black and ethnic minority backgrounds. 9% of the student body and 17% of the staff body are from European nationalities outside of the UK”.
Queen Mary University in Mile End is part of the Russell Group, meaning the research it produces is considered to among the 24 best universities’ in the UK. The university hosts campuses across both Europe and Asia as well as London, leading to concern as to what Brexit could mean for continued collaborative research with these international campuses.
“Research is a very important part of university life,” said Vicky Byers, European Unit Section Manager of Queen Mary University.
“There is evidence to suggest that European collaboration on research leads to a higher rate of publishing and can also lead to socio-economic benefits for the local community.”
“As a student especially, the opportunities that Brexit poses to eliminate is a little bit scary,” added Ella Harvey, VP Welfare for Queen Mary University’s students’ union.
“If we want to train our own students to compete in the global market for jobs, they need to be able to interact with students from all over the world”.
“Something I want to make very clear is that a lot of students feel quite a lot of fear, and not just from uncertainty in their position,” she concluded.
“Hate crime in the area is a big concern for the student union: we feel Brexit has validated that level of violence towards students in the area for a lot of people”.