Brexit “catastrophic” impact on higher education

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Universities and students would suffer should Britain leave the EU, warns the National Union of Students (NUS) and Universities UK.

A potential Brexit could have dire consequences for research funding, academic staff, as well as students looking to study abroad according to leading university organisations.

Beth Button, the Wales president of the National Union of Students, said: “The effect on the higher education sector, and therefore students, would be pretty catastrophic should the UK vote to leave the EU. Hundreds of millions of pounds worth of funding, access to European Union-wide collaborate projects, and access to academics for research would be lost.”

The union warns that UK students wishing to study abroad in the EU would be limited by increased costs, visa restrictions as well as facing limited work opportunities abroad. Leaving the European Union would also cause a massive decline in EU students coming to study in Britain as they would no longer be eligible to pay home fees.

“Combined with a hostile visa process, this would have a huge financial impact on our universities while also reducing the diversity of our campuses and classrooms, ” Button said.

Vice-chancellors of universities in Britain have also voiced their concerns over the looming EU referendum.

Universities UK said: “Some 15 per cent of the academic workforce are from a non-UK EU country, and the funding and shared frameworks of the EU support our researchers to work with their colleagues across Europe more easily.”

The organisation, which advocates for universities in the UK, also argued that Britain’s membership enables students to live and learn in other countries, building international networks and developing an understanding of other languages and cultures.

“Polling shows that university leaders, academics and students all strongly support the UK remaining in the EU,” said Universities UK. 

As of the last academic year, 124,575 students in the UK, or roughly 5 percent, were from other EU countries. They are estimated to have contributed £2,7bn and 19,000 jobs to the British economy, according to the Complete University Guide.

Button said: “Young people have the most to lose through this once-in-a-generation decision that will dramatically shape our future. Only by registering to vote can your voice be heard. Young people hold the key in this election – they can swing the vote.”

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