New data showing an increase in European staff departures has incited fears that the UK’s reputation for university education is at risk due to Brexit, according to a report by the British Academy.
Staff departures have increased by 19 percent up to 2,300, compared to 1,975 before the referendum, with the University of Oxford dealing with 230 departures in the 2016 academic year compared to 171 in 2014-15.
King’s College London lost 139 EU staff compared to 108 in the same time period. These universities, along with Cambridge, currently employ the highest number of EU staff.
UEA is an exception to this trend as only 18 staff left during the 2016- 17 academic year compared to 25 in the year before.
Of particular note in the report, which covered approximately 25,000 European academics working in 105 UK universities, are the 6,633 enrolled in STEM subjects, a high- demand area that is dealing with a shortage of qualified staff.
Recent estimates from EngineeringUK claim that the UK requires 1.8 million new engineers by 2025, while estimates for nursing shortages provided by The Health Foundation range from 15,000- 38,000 (the latter making up 15 percent of the workforce).
In the 2016-17 academic year UEA employed 267 EU staff, of which 107 work in a science-related department and 42 in medicine.
The government has made moves to mitigate the impact. In December, Theresa May secured a deal that would allow applications for settled status from EU citizens who arrive by March 2019 and who have been living in the UK for more than five years, as well as accepting deferrals for those who have not reached the five-year point by the official exit date.
Layla Moran, the education representative for the Liberal Democrats, noted that “Britain’s universities have thrived from having access to talented European researchers…through schemes like Horizon 2020 and Erasmus.”
She added that “while [the EU staff] were frozen out of the referendum, they are now voting with their feet.”