Damage control in Scotland

October 20, 2016

The further the Brexit proposals for the university sector are unveiled, the more disastrous they appear (“Brexit turmoil ‘pushes university pension deficit to £15 billion’”). It seems that the prime minister is interpreting the vote to Leave as a mandate to crack down even harder on immigration. Amber Rudd’s announcement last week that the Home Office would be “looking at tougher rules for students on lower-quality courses” explicitly links judgements on the quality of universities with increased restrictions on international recruitment in order to cut the number of people coming to the UK. At a stroke, she suggests that the current quality assurance system for higher education in England and Wales, and by implication here in Scotland, counts for nothing.

Ironically, it appears that the English minister for universities, Jo Johnson, knew nothing of this before it was revealed and is on record previously as arguing for the removal of students from the migration total. The word chaos is perhaps the most appropriate to describe the situation at a UK level.

Scotland’s higher education system depends on the work undertaken day to day by European Union nationals who make up about 16 per cent of staff – and almost 25 per cent of research staff. They contribute to and enrich the experience of our students, and have helped to keep Scottish research world-leading in the past few decades.

Our European staff and students feel uncertain and insecure at a time when they all have so much to contribute. It is good, therefore, to see the Scottish government, Universities Scotland and the National Union of Students working together with higher education trade unions to try to repair the damage being inflicted on the sector.

Douglas Chalmers
President, UCU Scotland

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