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Students react to EU referendum results

In their own words, students from the UK and the rest of Europe respond to the referendum result to leave the EU

  • Student life
  • Study abroad
June 24 2016
Holding hands: EU and UK


UK student Camilla Devereux just completed her anthropology degree at the University of Sussex:

I woke up this morning and stared at my phone for a good five minutes in disbelief. Living in London, socialising with students, colleagues and lecturers, I'd been lulled into a false sense of security. I thought that we'd vote to stay in the European Union.

I was so sure. I mean, we couldn't really vote to leave, could we? Nobody I knew wanted to leave, after all.

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I was so wrong. Very, very wrong.

And now, I'm scared. I'm very worried about the future of higher education in the UK. Most of all, I feel angry that the voice of so many young people was unable to penetrate. Referendum results have shown some 75 per cent of 18- to 24-year-olds voted remain, compared with about 40 per cent of over 65s. I feel like my future, and those of other undergraduate and postgraduate students, has been decided by those who will not feel the full brunt of this momentous decision.

I received an email from my vice-chancellor this morning, detailing the University of Sussex's obvious dismay at the referendum result in a calm and measured way. There will be no immediate impact on the immigration status of prospective and current students, I am told. For now, we will remain a member of Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+.

In other words: don't panic. At least, not yet.

Higher education receives notable funding through EU institutions. A vote to leave the EU will change the face of the current funding structure and will have serious ramifications. I fear that the most vulnerable students will now miss out on the fantastic opportunities that higher education funding can bring, or that British universities will find it more difficult to recruit international students (with potential visa requirements becoming a serious drawback for studying in the UK).

Internationalism has been central to my undergraduate experience.

A vote to leave will close a channel of dialogue, research activity, funding and collaboration that has undoubtedly and positively shaped my educational experiences thus far. When academics work together, what they create is nothing short of inspiring and magical. Alone, we remain isolated and uninspired.

I have so many questions. What will happen to the global league table positioning of British institutions? Can we continue to form productive collaborations across Europe? What will be the impact of renegotiation of financial relations?

For now, I can't seem to find any answers.

I know that many who voted to leave felt ignored by the government and spoke with their marginalisation in mind, hoping that this vote would provide them with a brighter future. I am shocked by some of the discourse now being used by my friends, mostly on social media, chastising all those who voted to leave as being “stupid”, “racist pigs”, “disgusting“ and worse. As political columnist Owen Jones has brilliantly pointed out, “This escalating culture war has to be stopped.”

We now need to focus on making the UK's verdict work. I'm just not sure how.

Nottingham University student Katy Ashby on a year abroad at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland:

I'm absolutely devastated about the result. This Conservative government are really leaving an awful legacy for the UK's youth. However, I don't understand how the Leave campaign were so successful at convincing people of their claims.

The saddest thing about it all is that the working-class people of Britain who were very much "leave" will be the ones most affected by further cuts and austerity measures. We can rest assured the politicians will not feel the pinch.

I'm hoping there can be some loophole out of this considering the margin of for and against was so narrow. Otherwise it's a day of mourning for what we've all lost.

I'm still abroad at the moment, about to sit an exam today, and, thank God, I was one of the lucky last ones to be able to benefit from the study abroad schemes that the EU has made affordable and possible.

President of the European Students’ Union (ESU) Fernando M Galán Palomares:

It’s likely that we’ll see a dramatic decrease in student mobility, both inwards and outwards.

Once the UK formally leaves the union, EU students attending UK higher education will be classed as international students, facing tuition fees of upwards of £13,000 and a hostile visa regulation system, making studying in the UK a less attractive option for many.

UK students will find accessing higher education in the EU more difficult, with increased tuition fees and potential visa restrictions, as well as limited access to healthcare and student jobs.

This will have financial consequences for UK higher education, as highlighted by Universities UK, but will also reduce the diversity of our campuses, limiting the opportunities for students to study alongside students from around Europe, which will undoubtedly result in lower cohesion and diversity. UK universities will also face a financial loss in their incomes from EU programmes, which may end up in an increase of tuition fees in order to compensate.

We’ve seen throughout this referendum an outpouring of support from students across Europe for the UK to remain in the EU.

Many students and young people across Europe are very surprised and shocked about the outcome of the referendum. Despite the polls suggesting Leave would win, many of us were still expecting a different result and it was hard to believe this was really happening.

It’s clear that the Brexit vote will have serious political implications for Europe. Students across Europe recognise that cooperation and unity are the foundations of a peaceful and progressive Europe, and students have a responsibility to now be at the forefront of unifying in the face of hate and fear.

ESU and our members have a very strong cooperation with NUS and will continue to stand in solidarity with students in UK. We will work for making sure that the new deal to be negotiated between the new UK government and the EU authorities will not jeopardise the students in the UK and will still have access to EU programmes.

Students have long been globally connected and particularly through shared activism and social justice movements. Students should continue to reach out to international projects and campaigns, unifying through common goals, and using our shared hope for the future to transcend national borders.  


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