Union warns of Brexit brain drain

Academic exodus: just over 40 per cent of lecturers said they were more likely to leave the UK after Brexit. Credit JME

Higher education in the United Kingdom will be hard hit by Brexit, according to 90 per cent of UK lecturers and professors in a poll to be released today.

Research funding had already been dealt a blow, with 44 per cent of those polled saying they knew academics who had lost access to funds following the vote to leave the European Union.

Just over 40 per cent said they were now more likely to leave the UK. However, that figure rose to 76 per cent for non-UK EU academics.

University and College Union (UCU) general secretary, Sally Hunt, said she was “deeply worried” that so many academics already knew of staff leaving as a result of the Brexit vote.

“The government must focus its full attention on dealing with the impacts of Brexit,” she said. “…Its first act should be to try and retain the talented academics working in this country by guaranteeing EU staff already working in the UK the right to remain.”

The survey also found that four in five academics believed that government plans to give new higher education providers easier access to degree-awarding powers and a university title will have a negative impact on UK higher education.

The YouGov survey, commissioned by the UCU, asked more than 1,000 academics about the impact of the Government’s controversial Higher Education and Research Bill and Brexit on the sector.

Three-quarters of survey respondents said the bill’s plan to link the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) to tuition fees would also have a negative impact on higher education.

The UCU called on the Government to require new providers to demonstrate a track record of higher education delivery before gaining degree-awarding powers.

The union said that the strength of feeling among academics about the impact of the bill, which will be debated again in the House of Lords later today, must not be ignored.

It said the findings reinforced the case for shelving the higher education bill and allowing universities to focus on dealing with a potential brain drain and other issues caused by Brexit.

Ms Hunt said: “This survey gives a real insight into academics’ concerns about the government’s policy proposals and the fallout of the Brexit vote.

“The level of concern amongst staff about the bill’s plans must be cause for alarm. We have to have robust requirements for new higher education providers in order to safeguard the UK’s global academic reputation. There are serious misgivings over the TEF and academics simply do not believe the government’s plans to measure teaching quality can be effective.

“I am deeply worried that so many academics already know of staff leaving as a result of the Brexit vote, and that three-quarters of EU nationals are now considering leaving the UK.

“The government must … shelve the divisive [higher education] Bill.

By Aban Contractor