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Address staffing, immigration and research concerns to protect UK universities

25 April 2017

The Education Committee report says the Government must provide guarantees to university staff from the EU and design a new immigration system that better meets the needs of higher education.

Future residency rights of EU citizens

The future residency rights of EU citizens currently living in the UK remains to be clarified. The Committee's report calls for this uncertainty over staff from the EU to be reduced immediately. The Committee calls on the Government to speedily resolve the issue of staff residency rights by unilaterally guaranteeing rights before the end of 2017 in the event of any delay on this matter.

Remove overseas students from net migration target

The report urges the Government to remove overseas students from the net migration target, making it clear it wants talent from the EU and the rest of the world to come to the UK. The report calls for reforms to the immigration system to reflect the requirements of higher education by facilitating, rather than obstructing, movement of higher people from and to the nation's universities, helping to ensure continued academic collaboration and the HE sector's international competitiveness. The Committee recommends the Government introduce an easier route than the Tier 2 (skilled worker) visa for academics from across the globe, with less bureaucracy, to show it is serious in its aim of bringing in the best people from around the world.

Chair's comment

Neil Carmichael MP, Chair of the Education Committee, said:

"Higher education in the UK is a world leader but Brexit risks damaging our international competitiveness and the long-term success of our universities. It's welcome that EU students have been given some guarantees on their funding and loan access but the Government must act urgently to address the uncertainty over EU staff  and avert the risk of a damaging ‘brain drain' of talent from our shores. As we leave the European Union we now have the opportunity to reform our immigration system to ensure we reap the full rewards of the ability of our universities to attract the brightest and best students and staff from across the world."

Preserve freedom of movement

On students studying in the UK, the report recommends an open approach with few barriers as the best model for all international students, including those from the EU. The Committee calls for the UK to retain a reciprocal open approach with light touch controls, such as visa-free access, which would enable the preservation of a system closely resembling freedom of movement.

Priority areas for the Government's Brexit negotiations

The Education Committee's report recommends a number of priority areas for the Government's Brexit negotiations, on staffing, students, research programmes and future collaboration, to ensure the UK higher education sector is equipped to deal with the challenges and opportunities of leaving the EU.

Regional growth fund

To support the sector and help rebalance the economy, the report calls for the Government to establish a new regional growth fund to replace, and exceed, the investment from European structural funding, and to ensure that all regions benefit from this domestic funding.

Horizon 2020 and research frameworks

The report recommends the Government commit to Horizon 2020 and future research frameworks to ensure ongoing research collaboration with the EU, but calls on the Government to develop a plan to match this funding if there is a failure to access these programmes.

Erasmus programme – student and work placement exchange programme

The report recognises the importance of the Erasmus programme for student and staff mobility and that the Government should target continued membership. However, if membership looks unlikely, the Committee recommends a home-grown replacement is developed which could include mobility beyond Europe.

Chair's comment

Neil Carmichael MP, Chair of the Education Committee, said:

"A future administration should develop a bold cross-Government strategy to take advantage of the global reach of our universities and ensure that higher education plays an important role in upcoming trade deals with the rest of the world. If the next Government takes these steps, our university sector will be able to punch its weight and seize the local and global opportunities on offer as we leave the European Union."

Further information

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