Vice-Chancellor examines the impact of Brexit on higher education

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Professor Alistair Fitt

Professor Alistair Fitt was on the witness panel for the Education Committee’s first evidence session for the inquiry into Brexit and Higher Education yesterday (11 January).

The session examined the overall risks and opportunities of exit from the EU and explored higher education’s top priorities for the negotiation.

During the session, Oxford Brookes’ Vice-Chancellor highlighted three top priorities for the higher education sector during Brexit negotiations:

  • Associate Country status for research and innovation Framework Programme 9 (the successor to Horizon 2020)
  • an improved visa regime for all international staff
  • an improved visa regime for all international students.

Professor Fitt spoke to the importance of an international outlook and the need to retain and continue to recruit talent from EU countries and beyond. He also made a direct request that the Government publicly affirms the value of EU students and staff to the UK.

On access to EU research funds and programmes the Vice-Chancellor said: “Associate Country status for research and innovation Framework Programme 9 is absolutely vital for the continued exceptional performance of UK research and innovation.”

He went on to note that Horizon 2020 funds a significant amount of research in the UK. As of February 2016, 25.2 per cent of Horizon 2020 funding awarded to all higher (or secondary) education institutions came to the UK, equal to €1.16 billion.

Professor Fitt also argued that participation in EU funded research programmes brings much more than this, enabling and incentivising collaboration, offering access to wider networks and attracting global prestige.

On the first witness panel along with Professor Alistair Fitt was Professor Catherine Barnard, Professor of EU Law, University of Cambridge, Professor Alastair Buchan, the University of Oxford’s Head of Medical Sciences Division and new Head of Brexit Strategy and Professor John Latham, Vice-Chancellor, Coventry University.

The Committee’s inquiry was launched in September 2016 and aims to explore the implications of UK's exit from the European Union for EU students and staff who want to come to England's universities to study and work and will consider what protections should be given to those who are already here. Similarly, it will look at the ramifications for Britons who want to work and study at higher education institutions in the EU.

They also aim to examine the effect of Brexit on the reputation of England's universities and ask how they can remain competitive. The future of the Erasmus+ student exchange programme and the impact on research is also being examined as part of the inquiry.

More information on the inquiry and evidence received is available on the Education Committee website along with a transcript of proceedings from the event.