Friday, 28 October 2016

Brexit: and universities focussing on the post-exit world

There has been a lot of anxiety over the post-Brexit future at the University of Exeter:
Futures Forum: Brexit: and Exeter University
Futures Forum: Brexit: and Exeter University: and "the huge number of overseas students which makes it one of the leading universities in the country, if not in the world."
Futures Forum: Brexit: and threatening the UK's research centres ... ... ... ... or: the 'catalyst' universities need to improve?

But maybe academia should embrace the future:

Brexit: It's crucial that universities are heard in the political debate


Universities now need to focus on the post-exit world 

The significant challenges for universities arising from the vote to leave the European Union have already been well documented and debated.

These challenges must be addressed, but universities now also need to focus on the post-exit world.

To thrive longer-term, universities need both a favourable outcome from exit negotiations and to secure positive domestic policy change. It's crucial that universities are heard in the political debate. The challenge is to convince Government that successful British universities are central to a thriving post-exit Britain.

The starting point must be accepting the political reality that the UK will shortly exit the EU.

To make the most of the 'brave new world', universities must seek new opportunities, as well as highlighting challenges, and explain what support is needed from Government to create the conditions for universities to contribute most fully to the UK's economic success and global influence outside the EU.

Both maintaining a strong relationship with European partners and growing partnerships across the world will be key.

Universities can make an invaluable contribution by driving local economic growth and innovation, creating jobs, and improving productivity. They should also be key to the success of the industrial strategy and to strengthening trade and diplomatic relationships across Europe and the wider world.

As the Government develops plans to seize the opportunities presented by exiting the EU, universities should be central to the solution for a successful post-exit Britain

Our universities are a British success story, world-renowned and a major economic asset, generating more than £73bn annually and supporting the UK's soft power and global partnerships.

Many leading international figures are alumni of British universities and UK higher education is well-connected with businesses, governments and research partners worldwide.

So what should Government do to maximise the positive impact of universities? In my view, there are four priorities: encouraging students from around the world to choose to study in the UK; making the UK an attractive destination for talented staff; enhancing international research partnerships; and increasing public investment in research and innovation.

Firstly, this means the UK should aspire to be the world's most attractive destination for overseas students. International students can be central to a successful post-Brexit Britain. Students from overseas generate more than £10.7 billion annually for the British economy and support around 137,000 jobs in communities in every UK region.

Put crudely, international students are a highly successful British export industry, but our success is being threatened.

As the global market grows, competitor countries such as Australia, Canada and China have all adopted ambitious strategies for increasing international students, whilst UK immigration policy hampers our ability to compete.

Attracting overseas students doesn’t just make economic sense. Importantly, international students enrich our campuses and the experience of UK students, both academically and culturally. Many return home having forged strong professional and personal links that provide long-term, ‘soft power’ benefits for the UK.

Moreover, polling has shown that the British public does not see international students as long-term migrants, but as valuable, temporary visitors that make an important economic and cultural contribution.

The British public does not see international students as long-term migrants CREDIT: PA

International students come to the UK, study for a period, and then the overwhelming majority go home after their studies.

In order for universities to thrive post-exit, the Government needs a compelling plan to encourage students from across the world that would benefit from a UK higher education, to choose to study here.

An international student growth strategy with a quantitative target to increase higher education export earnings is needed. This should be backed by investment to support international marketing, mobility and partnerships.

Government must also support universities to promote a welcoming message worldwide that the UK is a welcoming and attractive destination. Crucially, immigration reform is needed to reduce barriers for genuine international students to study in the UK.

Secondly, British universities should be magnets for international talent. Expert international staff (from Europe and beyond) make a vital contribution to teaching, research and British universities’ success. To make the UK a more attractive destination, reform of the immigration system is necessary to ensure that highly skilled staff are welcome in the UK, regardless of their nationality, with minimum visa bureaucracy and barriers.

Thirdly, an ambitious cross-government international research strategy is needed to incentivise collaboration and break down barriers to working with partners across the world.

This should cover engagement with the developed and developing world, drawing together and building on the disparate funding mechanisms which currently exist for international collaboration.

Negotiating continued UK access to and influence over European research programmes should be a central to this (60 per cent of current international research collaboration is with EU partners), but we need to be more ambitious, with new support for bilateral and multilateral research and innovation initiatives with transatlantic and global partners.

Promoting research collaboration opportunities (through the new Department of International Trade) can be central to the UK's offer to overseas governments and businesses.

Fourthly, this new research strategy must be backed by investment. In addition to a commitment to replacing any lost research and innovation funding associated with the UK’s exit from the EU, Government needs to address the historic underfunding of British research and development.

UK public funding of scientific research is only 0.48 per cent of GDP, the average across the G8 is 0.77 per cent. A new international research collaboration fund, that goes some way to closing the gap, could be a central part of this, with support provided to those growing or building new international partnerships. This would drive economic growth, boost productivity and increase competitiveness.

Mobility programmes, which provide opportunities to study and work for a period overseas, should also be prioritised for investment.

UK universities are resilient, adaptable and forward looking. Brexit poses many challenges, but with the right Government support, universities can play a central role in the UK's economic success and global influence outside the EU.

Alistair Jarvis, deputy chief executive, Universities UK

Brexit: It's crucial that universities are heard in the political debate - Telegraph

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