UK universities stockpiling in case of no-deal Brexit

UUK survey of institutions suggest most feel prepared but student recruitment and staff retention already being hit

September 16, 2019
Forklift stockpiling containers
Source: Source: iStock/bugphai

A number of UK universities are stockpiling or plan to stockpile “essential supplies” ahead of a potential no-deal Brexit, while about half the country’s institutions are already seeing a hit to student recruitment, according to a survey.

The survey of higher education institutions by Universities UK showed more than three-quarters were “very” or “extremely concerned” about the effects of leaving the European Union without a deal, although most said they now felt prepared if the UK did crash out.

Of the 75 institutions that responded to the UUK survey, all said they were prepared to some extent, although 48 per cent said they felt only “slightly” prepared. The other 52 per cent mainly said they were “very” prepared (49 per cent overall), with two institutions claiming to be “fully” prepared. Meanwhile, a total of 31 universities said they “have prepared, or [had] considered preparing, stores of essential supplies”.

Nine out of 10 universities said they had talked to researchers working on EU-funded projects to explain what steps had been taken by the government to underwrite such funding, while the same share had established how a no-deal Brexit would affect Erasmus+ student exchanges.

Asked where a no-deal Brexit might have the most significant impact, most replied that it would hit student recruitment (34 per cent), followed by access to European research funding (27 per cent).

At least half those responding to the UUK survey reported that they were already seeing the potential effects of no-deal in terms of student recruitment and staff retention.

A total of 50 per cent said they had seen a change in demand for courses from EU students, more than 55 per cent had experienced a shift in levels of research collaboration with overseas partners and almost 60 per cent said they had lost existing or potential staff members to institutions abroad.

UUK president Julia Buckingham, 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.”

simon.baker@timeshighereducation.com

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Reader's comments (2)

Universities have had three years to prepare. What were they thinking. For a business that purports to sell its institution as being at the forefront of thought processes able to take the lead in adaptation and innovation the lack lustre approach is concerning. Clearly new people must be employed to take these failing institutions forward into the future where WTO rules, Hague Conventions and other multilateral and bilateral treaties apply and have always applied. Really.
Universities need to be far more proactive in making their own arrangements to ensure that links with the rest of Europe are not damaged no matter what shenanigans the politicians get up to. Forge your own links, make your own agreements. The UK politicians cannot be relied upon, they do not have the best interests of the university sector at heart. We need to step up and ensure for ourselves that Brexit will do minimal damage to our teaching and research, telling politicians when necessary that "This is how it will be... because we have already made our own arrangements".

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