New analysis has revealed more than three quarters of surveyed UK universities are ‘very’ or ‘extremely concerned’ about the negative impact a no-deal Brexit will have on their institution, but most feel they are prepared for such an eventuality after taking widespread precautions.

The in-depth survey of its members by UUK has investigated the sector’s preparedness, in respect of no-deal, ahead of the proposed exit date from the European Union. A total of 75 universities from across the UK responded, and the results showed that significant arrangements have been made to mitigate the potential impact of a no-deal outcome.

However, concern remains high of the potential consequences no agreement would have on areas including student and staff recruitment and retention and access to research programmes and funding.

The survey findings showed;

  • 100% of universities acknowledge being prepared for no-deal to some extent – fully or very (52%) or slightly (48%)
  • 93% of universities have encouraged EU staff and students to secure pre-settled and settled status
  • More than 80% of universities are either ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ concerned about the impact no-deal will have on their institution
  • 61% of universities believe either student recruitment (34%) or access to research programmes and funding (27%) would be impacted most by no-deal
  • Some universities have prepared, or considered preparing, stores of essential supplies

Professor Julia Buckingham, President of Universities UK and Vice-Chancellor of Brunel University London, said:

“While the news that universities feel prepared for no-deal in some capacity is reassuring it is clear that the implications of exit under these circumstances remain largely unknown. It is in the government’s power to alleviate many of these concerns.

“Despite working tirelessly to offset the potential implications of no-deal, such an outcome could leave an indelible footprint on the higher education landscape for years to come.”

angela rayner thumbnailAngela Rayner MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, said:

“Boris Johnson’s reckless No Deal Brexit would be disastrous for our universities.

“Nearly one in five university academics are EU nationals and they all face uncertainty and anxiety about their future. A chaotic and damaging No Deal Brexit will also have a devastating impact on the ability of our universities to recruit students from EU countries and access research funding.

“Yet the new Education Secretary has been unable to give universities even the most basic reassurance that he has any credible plan.

“That is why Labour will continue to take all necessary steps to stop Boris Johnson forcing us into a No Deal Brexit that no one voted for.”

A Government spokesperson said:

"This Government is committed to making sure Britain is prepared for any circumstances related to Brexit, and we are pleased to see that universities are being diligent in their preparation for leaving the EU.

"We have confirmed that EU nationals and EEA Swiss Nationals will continue to be eligible for home status tuition fees and student finance for higher education courses starting in 2020/21 - for the duration of their courses.

"In addition, we have committed to raise the investment in research and development and maintain the UK’s position as a science superpower in a post-Brexit world. We have also confirmed that we will underwrite Horizon 2020 funding for eligible, competitive bids to provide clarity and assurance to businesses and universities."

Survey results found 90% of universities have communicated with researchers involved in EU-funded projects to explain the steps taken by government to underwrite EU funding, 90% have established which Erasmus+ mobility programmes will be covered by the European Commission and which by the UK government guarantee and 95% have evaluated risks to key supplies and contracts.

But universities are already feeling the potential effects of no-deal. Survey results indicated that 50% of institutions have experienced a change in demand from EU students, more than 55% have experienced a change in the level of collaboration with overseas partners and almost 60% have lost existing or potential staff members to overseas institutions.

Since the June 2016 referendum vote, UUK has worked with its members, UK Government and European partners on future planning and ways in which the potentially damaging consequences of Brexit, in particular no-deal, can be mitigated.

A total of 75 UK universities responded to the survey. Responding universities detailed where they felt no-deal would have the most significant impact, what pre-emptive actions had already been undertaken, the impact a potential no-deal was already having, what gaps remained in government advice to universities, and whether universities have stockpiled or considered stockpiling essential supplies.

Universities UK has been explicit that a ‘no deal’ exit from the EU would be bad for our students, researchers and 136 member universities. 

A briefing document outlines the immediate actions government must take to ensure the UK’s future participation in prestigious research programmes and overseas student mobility schemes, as well as questions over immigrations laws and future fee and loan status of EU students post 2021. This briefing sets out the consequences of exiting the EU without a deal and the stabilising policies required for the higher education sector.

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