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Sector reacts to Leave vote

Higher education officials respond to the news that the United Kingdom has voted to leave the European Union

Posted by Rebecca Paddick | June 24, 2016 | International

Dr Eugene Michaels, Senior Lecturer in Economics at the University of Derby.

"As the referendum campaign drew to a close, it became clear that, despite their prevalence, economic arguments were not going to settle the debate. Warnings from the remain side of forecasted economic losses were dismissed as scaremongering while claims of outward-looking long-run prosperity from the leave side were rejected as fanciful.

"The social and economic divide then became clear with the tallying of the votes giving a decisive victory to the leave campaign. It can be argued that the votes cast had little to do with embracing the liberal freedoms espoused by the leave economists and more to do with anti-establishment sentiment, immigration fear, conservatism and protectionism. 

"However, the previous overconfidence of capital and betting markets in a remain outcome clearly shows the disconnect between them (London) and the UK (English) economy as a whole. The sharp drop in the value of the pound was to be expected as markets had not 'priced-in' the impact of the potential Brexit. The world markets will now have to undergo a period of ‘correction’ in the face of evidence. In the immediate term, the volatility in the markets is bound to increase as uncertainty over the ‘divorce proceedings’ and the evident political fractures spreads.

The previous overconfidence of capital and betting markets in a remain outcome clearly shows the disconnect between them (London) and the UK (English) economy as a whole

"In terms of the impact on the economy, the economists on the leave campaign argued that Brexit meant taking advantage of free trade with the rest of the world with our open, dynamic economy. They argued that leaving will allow the removal of trade distortions, open up non-EU immigration and increase trade and investment flows, particularly into sectors unprotected by the EU, such as services. My own fear is that, life outside the EU will reveal the lack of competitiveness of certain sectors like agriculture and manufacturing which will lead to increased demands on the government for protectionist measures, state intervention and subsidies. The resulting lower trade and investment flows (and potential capital outflows) with the reduced labour mobility would depress economic growth."

Dr Wendy Piatt, Director General of the Russell Group.

“Leaving the European Union creates significant uncertainty for our leading universities but we will work with the Government to minimise any disruption caused by this decision. Throughout the campaign both sides acknowledged the value of EU funding to our universities and we will be seeking assurances from the Government that this will be replaced and sustained long term.

“The UK has not yet left the EU so it is important that our staff and students from other member countries understand that there will be no immediate impact on their status at our universities. However, we will be seeking assurances from the Government that staff and students currently working and studying at our universities can continue to do so after the UK negotiates leaving the EU. 

“The free movement of talent, the networks, collaborations, critical mass of research activity and funding from EU membership have played a crucial part in the success of Russell Group universities. We will be working closely with the Government to secure the best deal for universities from the negotiations to come so that we can continue to form productive collaborations across Europe.”

Dame Julia Goodfellow, President of Universities UK.

“Leaving the EU will create significant challenges for universities. Although this is not an outcome that we wished or campaigned for, we respect the decision of the UK electorate. We should remember that leaving the EU will not happen overnight – there will be a gradual exit process with significant opportunities to seek assurances and influence future policy.

“Throughout the transition period our focus will be on securing support that allows our universities to continue to be global in their outlook, internationally networked and an attractive destination for talented people from across Europe. These features are central to ensuring that British universities continue to be the best in the world. 

“Our first priority will be to convince the UK Government to take steps to ensure that staff and students from EU countries can continue to work and study at British universities in the long term, and to promote the UK as a welcoming destination for the brightest and best minds. They make a powerful contribution to university research and teaching and have a positive impact on the British economy and society. We will also prioritise securing opportunities for our researchers and students to access vital pan-European programmes and build new global networks."

Martin Doel, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges.

“Whatever the future holds for Britain once it leaves the EU, colleges and their students must be properly supported.  They are, and must continue to be, at the forefront of providing education and training to ensure people are skilled and that companies stay competitive.

“Colleges are currently planning their budgets for 2016-17 and uncertainty over the future of their funding leaves them unable to plan accurately for the coming year. The Government must make it clear as soon as possible how it will continue to fund education and training for the good of everyone. 

“Specific areas of concern relate to the money pledged for training via the European Social Fund and the Skills Minister Nick Boles' comments that the apprenticeship levy may need to be postponed. In an uncertain world, the Government needs to prioritise spending on education and training."

Chris Martin, Professor of Economics, University of Bath.

"The shocking decision to leave the European Union has plunged the UK into a severe political crisis. There is a risk that this spills over into a major economic crisis. The exchange rate has had the largest fall for many years. This has good effects (exports are cheaper) and bad effects (imported goods are more expensive, leading to less demand and more inflation). Large falls in the share price of major housebuilders, suppliers of luxury goods and consumer electronics firms suggests that the markets expect the bad effects to outweigh the good. In addition, Brexit has plunged the UK into a long period of deep uncertainty; uncertainty leads to less demand from consumers and less investment by firms, multiplying the already adverse effects of the fall in share prices. 

"But the greatest worry is the very sharp drop in the share price of major banks. The financial crisis of 2008-9 showed the almost existential dangers of a financially vulnerable banking system. Policymakers need to take immediate action to offset these risks and to stop the economy being dragged down further. 

Brexit has plunged the UK into a long period of deep uncertainty; uncertainty leads to less demand from consumers and less investment by firms, multiplying the already adverse effects of the fall in share prices

We need action from the Bank of England. It needs to provide massive support for the banking system. We may feel uncomfortable about providing further support for a deeply unpopular banking system, but there is no choice. The fall in the exchange rate will increase inflation. The Bank of England must ignore this and state that it will not increase interest rates while instability lasts. And we need action from the Chancellor. An emergency budget that raises taxes would make a difficult situation much worse. We need a commitment to increase government expenditure, to support demand and employment for as long as this crisis lasts."

Professor Aldwyn Cooper, Vice Chancellor, Regent’s University London. 

"As a leading independent, not-for-profit and highly-international institution, Regent’s University London has been at the heart of the debate surrounding the UK’s membership of the European Union (EU). Today’s closely contested Referendum outcome, resulting in a vote in favour of the UK leaving the EU, is not a conclusion that we have either wished or campaigned for. 

"Regent’s has published four annual reports on the relationship between the UK, EU and USA, all of which demonstrate the strength of our position within the EU, and include detailed reviews of EU membership benefits on trade, energy, education, research, security and defence.

"We also teach five European languages and take great pride in warmly welcoming students of more than 140 nationalities onto our campuses. None of this will change. However, we recognise that we must now focus on how our students from the UK, EU and other countries will be best served in this new political and economic environment.

"Regent’s is fortunate in being an independent institution which, unlike other public universities, is not dependant on EU research funding, and enjoys the freedom to recruit UK, EU and international students who enjoy a uniquely international education in the world’s most cosmopolitan city. 

"The possibility that EU students in the UK may be charged a higher fee will have no impact on Regent’s students. We are one of the few universities that charges the same fee, irrespective of whether our students are from the UK, EU or elsewhere in the world. Student visas are also unlikely to be affected over the coming two years, if at all. 

"As the Referendum is unprecedented, there are some questions about how mechanisms for withdrawal from the EU will proceed. Negotiations will require all 27 remaining EU member states and the European Commission, and the process is now expected to take approximately two years. 

"I will be meeting personally with the UK Universities and Science Minister, Jo Johnson, to ensure that Regent’s University London remains at the centre of discussions going forward, and we will provide updates on all higher education developments as further details emerge."

Universities Wales official statement

Leaving the EU will create significant challenges for universities. Although this is not an outcome that we wished or campaigned for, we respect the decision of the UK electorate. We should remember that leaving the EU will not happen overnight – there will be a gradual exit process with significant opportunities to seek assurances and influence future policy.

Throughout the transition period our focus will be on securing support that allows our universities to continue to be global in their outlook, internationally networked and an attractive destination for talented people from across Europe. These features are central to ensuring that British universities continue to be the best in the world.

Our first priority will be to convince the UK Government to take steps to ensure that staff and students from EU countries can continue to work and study at British universities in the long term, and to promote the UK as a welcoming destination for the brightest and best minds. They make a powerful contribution to university research and teaching and have a positive impact on the British economy and society. We will also prioritise securing opportunities for our researchers and students to access vital pan-European programmes and build new global networks.

Julian Beer, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Birmingham City University

"While clearly this is an outcome which will create some new challenges for ourselves and other universities, the process of leaving the EU will take time and things will certainly not change overnight.

"The many European Union students and staff studying and working in the region should be reassured that this decision is unlikely to have any impact on them for some time to come. The British education system is among the best in the world and during the transition period and beyond it is important that we continue to provide a place for EU students to come and study, as we have done over many years.  

"During the campaign, Vote Leave representatives made it clear that current investment into Higher Education research and student exchange opportunities need not be impacted by Britain departing the EU. We will join with other universities in seeking more detail on the changes and opportunities this decision has presented."

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