Higher education and the dangers of a hard Brexit

Student_admissions.jpgThe Education Select Committee is looking at “the impact of exiting the European Union on higher education”, writes Gill Green of Migration Matters Trust. Individuals giving evidence to the Committee on 11 January 2017 highlighted the critical contribution of non-British staff, students and research partners to the success of British higher education. 

International students are the UK's third largest “export” - but polls show that Brexit has had a worldwide negative impact on students' likelihood to apply for UK study. EU applications are already down; student numbers may fall if their fees go up and their current free movement is replaced by cumbersome and expensive visas.

EU citizens make up 20% of the staff of the Russell Group - and a higher percentage of researchers and staff in the economically key areas of maths, science and engineering. These staff need reassurance about their positions - and the status of their families.

The UK is a world leader in many research areas; but almost half that research involves outside partners. At the moment five of our top ten partners are EU countries. One in four British research publications is joint with a European partner. So, if universities are to continue as world leaders, they need a replacement for EU research funding and a way to maintain research collaboration with European centres.

Catherine Barnard, professor of EU law at Cambridge University, warned that a “hard Brexit” would “cut off the flow of excellent people who are coming at the moment”. She quoted a 14 per cent drop in applications from the EU for undergraduate courses at Cambridge in 2017. Postgraduate applications had gone up, but there were already signs of future concern. Those who declined the offer of a postgraduate place mentioned perceived anti-immigrant sentiment post-Brexit; the falling value of bursaries with the falling pound; and the uncertainty of future cross- European research collaboration.

The full evidence sessions can be heard via the Parliament select committee website.


Flexibility needed in the post-Brexit visa regime

A recent report in the Financial Times by George Parker and Helen Warrell outlines options under consideration by Ministers to enable EU citizens to come to work in the UK post-Brexit.  

Migration Matters Trust Chair Barbara Roche is quoted in the article expressing our concern that the proposed options will not provide the flexibility required for the diversity of skill levels needed in the job market.

You can read the article here.


Roche voices fears for EU nationals on jobs

The Chair of Migration Matters Trust, Barbara Roche, has spoken up for EU citizens in the UK and expressed her fears for the country's economy if it loses a substantial number of them in the aftermath of the Brexit vote. The MMT Chair was quoted in the FT in an article entitled "EU citizens in UK fear for jobs ahead of Brexit talks."

Barbara Roche, a former Labour immigration minister and chair of the Migration Matters Trust, said the survey results were “very worrying” and echoed some of the concerns that she had heard from people in business. “The UK cannot afford to lose people with these skills and talents,” she said.

Ms Roche urged the government to “state unequivocally” that EU citizens would be able to remain in the UK post-Brexit, and called on ministers to “keep restating” that there was no room for abuse of migrants and foreigners in British society.


Briefing on the UN Special Assembly on refugees and migrants


by Vaughan Jones

The United Nations first ever special Assembly on refugees and migrants was held in New York yesterday 19 September. Whilst many of the planned events by civil society were disrupted by the discovery of explosive devices, leaders of the 197 countries met to endorse a non-binding international agreement on the treatment of those who need international protection or are vulnerable as migrants.

The Assembly was the conclusion of a process initiated by the UN Secretary-General in response to the burgeoning refugee crises on Europe’s borders and in the Pacific and the start of a process leading to a new international compact on refugee and migrants. This will come to another Assembly in two years’ time.

The UK approach is based on three core principles:

Refugees should seek asylum in the first safe country they reach. This places the main burden of responsibility on developing countries. The Prime Minister argues that it would prevent onward movement facilitated by criminal smugglers. However, some of the evidence demonstrates that it is precisely when refugees feel trapped in camps with no prospect of improving their lot that they fall prey to smugglers.

There should be a better distinction between refugees and economic migrants. This is already the case in international law. However, both climate change and the nature of modern conflict blurs boundaries.

The right of all countries to control their borders and the responsibility to reduce onward flows of illegal and uncontrolled migration. Of course, there is no responsible argument being made that borders should not be controlled. But if application processes were dealt with effectively and international conventions fairly and effectively applied then there would be a massive improvement in the management of flows.

The Assembly was called because of the unprecedented numbers of refugees in the world today and the failure of the international community to manage this. The burden remains on the shoulders of the poorest countries and the suffering of the refugee continues even when they have escaped from the horrors of their own countries. 


Britain's Brexit challenge

Part of the Migration Matters Trust’s immediate role is to help focus the European debate on the facts.

Understanding the evidence on EU immigration will be critical if the UK is to strike the right deal in leaving the EU, particularly on whether Britain is to retain preferential access to the single market and the economic benefits that it brings.

All nations that are not full members of the EU, such as Norway and Switzerland, who participate in the single market, accept freedom of movement.

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