U15 head predicts post-Brexit 'gold rush' for EU universities

Comments are a further sign that European institutions are gearing up to poach UK-based researchers

March 10, 2017
Gold rush cart
Source: iStock

Brexit means that there could soon be a “gold-rush mood” among European universities as they snap up UK-based academics, according to the secretary-general of U15, a club of the biggest research universities in Germany.

“UK institutions expect German universities...to be poaching UK-based staff soon,” says Denise Feldner in a recent article that asks whether Britain is facing a “mass academic exodus”.

Her comments are a further sign that other EU countries are looking to cream off academics who are now unsure of their careers in the UK, because of uncertainty over residency rights or access to EU research funding.

Germany’s Alexander von Humboldt Foundation is lobbying for extra funds to tempt scholars away from the UK, while the Republic of Ireland is also putting aside more money to attract researchers “in the context” of Brexit.

In the article for The Globalist, Ms Feldner writes that “the UK research system has changed significantly since the country became a member of the European Union. It is only in the last ten to twenty years that several UK universities have become the world-leading institutions they represent today.”

UK prime minister Theresa May has previously said she would “welcome agreement” on maintaining research collaboration with the Continent.

“The major challenge will be to find new common ground,” writes Ms Feldner. “At the moment, there is hope in Europe’s research community that the existing level of close ties in the research landscape will affect Brexit negotiations in a positive way.”

But she adds that there is “no precedent” for a new agreement, and notes that one “huge difficulty” is to balance “an EU research system mainly financed by taxpayers’ money and a British university system which, unlike that on the continent, is largely run like a private business”, pointing to the large sums of money UK universities make from international students. 

david.matthews@tesglobal.com

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Reader's comments (1)

"“UK institutions expect German universities...to be poaching UK-based staff soon,” " None of this stands up - we've known for a long-time that the reason why so many academics come here are because of the lack of opportunities in their own host countries. So why I'm sure a very small percentage of the very top academics are likely to be poached, the rest are SOL. Take this from a recent LSE piece: "Germany is an example of the third type, where the academic job market is both closed and insecure. For a long time, applicants needed to possess an habilitation – basically a second PhD – to qualify for professor positions. Even if this requirement has been softened recently, and the academic job market has become more international, it acted for a long time as a de facto barrier to entry similar to the national qualification procedures in France or Spain. The most striking characteristic of this type of labour market, however, is the virtual absence of permanent positions for early career researchers" http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2016/11/21/academic-labour-markets-in-europe-vary-widely-in-openness-and-job-security/

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