The impact of Britain’s decision to leave the EU is still unrealised. The UK government is trying to negotiate the terms of our exit, but much of the finer detail has yet to be agreed upon. One area that will almost certainly be affected is the education and training sector, and not necessarily in a negative way.
There are approximately 120,000 EU students studying in the UK. This generates more than £3 billion for the UK economy and there are around 20,000 jobs dependent on foreign students. There is a high level of integration between the UK and EU education sector. The EU also invests heavily in UK universities, further education, and research – to the tune of £8 billion in the last decade.
The loss of this funding will have huge implications for further education teachers/lecturers and training providers. If funding from EU sources is cut, budgets will be slashed, and student numbers could fall.
Post-Brexit Skills Training
However, it isn’t all doom and gloom. The likelihood is that the UK will slide into a period of slow economic growth post-Brexit. For the Further Education sector, this is a good thing. When the economy slows down, and jobs dry up, people usually start looking to increase their employability by learning new skills. Further Education colleges could see a boost in student numbers post-Brexit, as more people look at part-time or full-time training and education courses.
A loss of skilled EU workers in the hospitality sector means UK FE colleges may need to boost their skills training courses to cope with extra demand from UK students and employers. An increase in demand for hospitality training courses will, of course, lead to a corresponding increase in demand for skilled FE teachers in key subjects. And with visa restrictions curtailing freedom of movement for lecturers and teaches from the EU, UK teaching staff will be in demand.
In addition, several large employers are likely to move their operations overseas post-Brexit, which will lead to a skilled workforce in need of retraining for new jobs. FE colleges are well-placed to help skilled workers from traditional manufacturing industries find a new direction in their working life.
Post-Brexit Freedom of Movement
Some industries will be affected more than others post-Brexit. The hospitality sector is likely to lose a significant number of workers if EU freedom of movement is curtailed. Pubs, hotels, and restaurants employ a lot of skilled staff from EU countries. There may also be a boost in tourism if the pound takes a hit. Indeed, those using foreign exchange services and forex trading platforms have to be aware that GBP could slide further when the UK leaves the EU and a period of economic uncertainty ensues.
Many institutes of higher education have raised concerns about how Brexit will affect UK universities and research facilities. If freedom of movement is curtailed or abolished following Brexit, this will cause a significant reduction in the number of students, lecturers, and research scientists entering the UK, but it does create an opening for UK lecturers and research personnel.
Even though there will be a reduction in the numbers of skilled teaching personnel and EU students post-Brexit, FE colleges and staff should be able to weather the storm and continue to thrive.