More pull: implications emanating from contemporary' changes to governance structures in the US and Europe
Currently the US and UK are still widely regarded as the leading providers of higher education (TES Global Ltd., 2017) in the world and, as mentioned earlier, they are also regarded as the top destinations for international undergraduate and postgraduate students (PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, 2015). However, recent policy changes will have a significant impact on their Higher Education Systems, especially with regard to their ability' to attract quality' international staff and students as well as being able to attain funding for research (Marginson, 2017; Else, 2017; Kelly, 2017; Cooper 8c Dennis, 2017).
The UK has one of the most competitive higher education systems in the world. Oxford was ranked as the best university' in the world in the 2018 Times Higher Education (THE) World University' Rankings (WUR) of which British universities accounted for 31 of the top 200 places in the Rankings (TES Global Ltd., 2017).
During June 2016, the British public voted to leave the European Union (EU) following 43 years of membership. The leave vote signifies a reversal of European efforts at political and economic integration (Smith, 2016). The word ‘’Brexit’ has been widely used as a shorthand to refer to the UK withdrawing from the EU, merging the words Britain and Exit (Smith, 2016). The UK had to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which gave the two sides (UK and the EU) two years to agree the terms of the split. It is a long and complicated process unpicking 43 years of treaties and agreements covering thousands of subjects. Brexit will influence all the countries involved politically and economically, and may be a catalyst for future changes because as Northern Ireland and Scotland voted to stay in the EU whilst England and Wales decided to leave (Hunt & Wheeler, 2017). Most of the Higher Education community seemed to be in strong support for the ‘remain’ vote as publicly expressed by Universities UK (UUK), the Russell Group, the MillionPlus group, and other HE groupings. The British universities and students perceive Brexit as a potential threat to the competitiveness and sustained excellence of UK Higher Education (Birmingham, Elder, Gotz, Sijmons, & Yardeni, 2017).
The Gambridge Brexit Report highlights the significant role the EU plays in British Higher Education, the EU provides about 16% of all research funding, 16% of academic staff, and 125 000 students (Birmingham et al., 2017). Marginson (2017) sees British Higher Education as collateral damage emanating from Brexit, suggesting that the UK universities benefitted substantially from the UK being a member of the EU. More than 25% of the staff in the leading research universities are non-UK EU-citizens and it is unlikely that the government’s draft migration policy will be able to sustain the talent pool (Marginson, 2017). About 4.6% of UK universities’ teaching income is directly associated with EU students. Universities UK estimate that, in total, EU students generate £2.2 billion for the economy (Birmingham et al., 2017).
Student mobility is another factor, which may affect UK universities (Marginson, 2017). Non-EU international student numbers may reduce by 30 to 40%, which would cut into institutional incomes (Marginson, 2017). Applications to UK universities from continental EU students, starting university from September 2017 to September 2018 have dropped by 7%, even though the British government guarantees a full fee loan for the period of study (Gooper & Dennis, 2017). Cooper and Dennis (2017) suggest that the reduction may be due to a growing perception that international students are no longer welcome in the UK. It is expected, that in the future, post ‘Brexit’, EU students will be required to pay higher international student fees (Cooper & Dennis, 2017).
International research collaboration
Between 1981 and 2014, the proportion of published UK research with international collaboration increased from 16% to 52% (Birmingham et al., 2017). The
Russell Group (2016) affirms that 80% of their internationally co-authored papers were written with EU collaborators. EU membership provides the staff and students of world leading universities in the Russell Group access to over 800 top research facilities (The Russell Group, 2016). Research collaboration between the UK and EU will undoubtedly be stifled but the UK’s ultimate relationship with the EU’s research programme is unclear at present. If the EU does not grant the UK ‘associated member status’, universities from the UK will stand to lose large grants from the European Research Council. Nearly 25% of Cambridge’s research funding and 20% of Oxford’s research funding from competitive grants comes from the European Union (Bothwell & Grove, 2017). Over the last ten years, researchers at the University' of Cambridge have successfully' won 218 individual European Research Council grants (Birmingham et al., 2017). Institutions from the UK’s Russell Group will also be concerned about potential loss to EU funding (Bothwell & Grove, 2017). The reduced funding available for research, coupled with a tougher migration policy, may impact the UK’s ability' to recruit top academic staff (Birmingham et al., 2017; Else, 2017).
If the UK were to drop out of the EU’s research and innovation system, it would also be to the detriment of science in Europe (Else, 2017). Thomas Jorgensen, senior policy coordinator at the European University' Association states, “Britain is the biggest player and you can’t take out the biggest player without having systemic effect” (Else, 2017; para. 7). Else (2017) cites Kurt Deketelaere, the secretary' general of the League of European Research Universities (LERU) which represents 23 research-intensive universities throughout Europe,
difficult decisions will have to be made over how the EU will spend their budget because the UK is a net contributor to the EU budget. Should the UK stop contributing funding to the Research and Innovation fields then continental European universities will lose.
The Gam bridge Report makes numerous recommendations to the UK Government for the benefit of the UK Higher Education System. Some of these recommendations are listed below (Birmingham et al., 2017):
- • The exclusion of international students in UK net migration figures.
- • That the UK Government reform the current immigration system so that it reflects the benefit of international researchers. This could take a number of forms, such as waiving visa requirements or having fast track visas for academic researchers.
- • That the UK Government makes continued access to Horizon 2020 and future European Framework Programmes a high priority in ‘Brexit’ negotiations.
- • UK Universities should consider lowering all international student fees (i.e. rather than just bringing EU student fees up to meet existing international fees).
- • The UK Government should strive to retain access to the Erasmus student exchange programme.
- • The UK Government should review current spending on Arts and Humanities and guarantee continued support and funding.
- • The Government should guarantee the status of EU students and staff already here as early as possible.
- • The Government clearly communicates to students and universities any relevant transitional arrangements made as part of the Article 50 process.