Outside the university sector, EU funding has contributed nearly £577 million to the UK’s GDP and research funding to universities is responsible for generating £503 million and 10,000 jobs.
Brexit has implications for the British residents teaching or studying abroad: the number of UK students studying in EU countries through the Erasmus+ scheme was 15,600 in 2015. One of the big questions for the education sector is whether British nationals teaching in EU members states will be able to stay under the principle of free movement.
The UK will also face challenges in securing alternative funding in place of research grants and partnerships – although Chancellor Philip Hammond has sought to provide reassurance to British businesses and universities over future funding.
Regulation – a brief introduction
The EU has a fairly limited role in regulating education, with policy and legislation created domestically. The main influence is in partnerships and initiatives such as the Erasmus programme and related research projects.
The UK is a signatory of the Bologna Process – with the goal of creating a harmonised education process across the EU, meaning UK citizens can study abroad subject to the same tuition fees and support as the citizens of the country they’re visiting. The European Qualifications Framework also exists to link different member states’ qualification systems and frameworks – ensuring each states’ is recognised by others.
There is evidence Brexit has caused EU member state-led projects to be reluctant to collaborate with UK partners.
- British academic institutions face losing EU funding grants – and despite reassurance no such action will be taken before the Brexit process is complete, projects led at EU level or by other member states are already reluctant to collaborate with their British counterparts
- Theresa May’s statements to date suggest she won’t sacrifice control over UK borders and migration – this could have consequences for students looking to study in the UK, and reducing potential tuition fees available to institutions
- UK universities and academic institutions remain world-leading and capable of attracting overseas students. Many may ultimately have to pay increased tuition, meaning the total revenue secured by UK institutions could go up rather than down
- UK universities may choose to circumvent the Brexit process by establishing branches within the EU
- UK institutions may seek partnerships further afield – moving into the American and Chinese education markets where growth can be pursued