June 24, 2016
Reaction to the EU Referendum result
So, the voters have spoken; the next few years will see the result of that vote translated into policy reality. Across the University of Warwick, although some will be celebrating, there is, I know, much concern. Let me try to put some of that concern into context.
There are three issues that could impact directly on people.
The first concerns our students who are citizens from other EU countries. Many are concerned about their fee and immigration status. We currently have some 1260 such students registered on undergraduate degrees, as well as around 700 students who participate each year in Erasmus exchanges between Warwick and other EU institutions. Regarding fees, we have said confidently that those already registered will not be affected by any fee changes the government might subsequently impose; and that will hold also for those seeking to join us this Autumn. There will be a two year window at least for the negotiations. Therefore, logically, any fee change would not occur until 2020. That is not to accept the principle of a change to the fee regime; it is a worst case analysis.
The second is the impact on our staff. We have nearly 500 colleagues who work here from other EU countries. And I know many are concerned with the implications for their right to stay in this country. I can understand why, given some of the unpleasant things said during the Referendum campaign. It is not in the interest of any government to lose highly skilled workers, and so the main challenge is likely to be visa costs. This is something that will need careful monitoring. However, our European staff are an important, valued, part of our community, and I intend to make the case wherever I can that such staff are incredibly valuable to UK HE, and should not be disadvantaged in the new world.
Third, many at Warwick will be concerned about the impact on the university's research income, currently over £13m a year from EU sources. That funding comes from government, industry and charitable sources, and translates into posts and studentships, as well as equipment and activity. All currently signed contracts will be honoured. I will be arguing that even without membership of the EU, the UK should be a part of the European research family, as Norway and Switzerland currently are. In this work, we will be much helped by being inside a Europe wide body of research intensive universities - the Guild that we recently announced - which has, as its chair, the President of a Norwegian university. Working with other like-minded institutions around the world to progress our research and teaching aims will continue to be a priority for Warwick.
There is much, complex, work for us to do in the new environment, but much is already being prepared here at Warwick to enable us to understand how the University and our community might be impacted.
There will be, if the referendum campaign has been anything to go by, plenty of apocalyptic language greeting this result in the media. We will be told that the economy will collapse, that it's the end of civilisation as we know it.
I have made no secret that, in my view, the University's future would have been more certain with a Remain vote. But it is still secure with a Leave vote. We still are a very attractive place for students to study, whether they be British or from around the rest of the world, and part of that attraction is precisely because of the cosmopolitan nature of our student and staff body. We must maintain this. And seeing our growing research income over the past few years, we should remain confident in the quality of our research in the global competition for the funding our research needs and deserves.
So, although we will leave the EU, Warwick will remain a strong, confident, global institution.
There is one last point. Clearly the business of government will be dominated by the many processes required by exit. Once there is clarity on who is charged with translating this for higher education, I will be writing to them to call for a delay in the Higher Education Bill while this work is carried through. To add the demands of that Bill to those of EU exit, at the same time, will be an intolerable burden for universities that, frankly, threatens to rock our very capacity to do everything we do to promote and extend the UK’s reputation globally. This, at a time when that reputation matters more than ever. I hope that much will be self-evident to the minister.