Universities Scotland has issued a stark warning today that a so-called ‘hard Brexit’ could have severe consequences for higher education, warning of an “exodus of talent”.
The body, which represents Scotland’s 19 universities, said that if the current mobility of academic talent coming from overseas is not maintained, it could “intellectually and culturally impoverish” the UK.
It has called on the UK government to provide early confirmation of EU nationals’ immigration status in order to prevent losing 4500 “highly valued” staff.
Failure to provide this certainty before the triggering of Article 50 puts families in “unnecessary doubt”, Universities Scotland added.
In evidence submitted by the body alongside Research Councils UK (RCUK) to the House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee, they warned that Scotland was already being left behind in the higher education marketplace – with potentially long-term damage if Scottish students are unable to participate in schemes such as Erasmus.
The UK Government is yet to confirm or deny whether Scotland will continue to participate in the Erasmus student-exchange programme following Brexit, as the Scottish Government has pressed them for clarity.
The House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee is currently holding an inquiry into Scotland’s place in Europe, after 62% of Scots voted to remain in the EU.
RCUK put forth in their evidence that UK institutions must continue to receive the same level of funding following Brexit – particularly in schemes which involve the EU – if they are to continue as a “world leader in research and innovation”.
They also state that the uncertainty surrounding Brexit will affect whether or not world-class research specialists will remain in the UK, or come to the UK in the first place.
Universities Scotland also expressed their disappointment that Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell is not part of the government’s new Brexit sub-committee.
Stephen Gethins MP, SNP Europe spokesperson, commented: “The UK government cannot continue to ignore the serious warnings coming from our universities and research bodies about the huge and long-term damage leaving the EU could do to our vital higher education sector and the wider economy.
“Leaving the EU is far and away the biggest threat to jobs and long-term prosperity, with the potential to cost the Scottish economy up to 80,000 jobs over the next decade and up to £11.2 billion per year by 2030.
“The damage to our world-leading universities and research institutes could be particularly severe – so it is essential that the UK government starts having a meaningful dialogue with the devolved administrations that enables our universities to continue to thrive with continued European funding and research collaborations in the EU and further afield.”