The University encouraged the Government to ensure participation in Erasmus was part of any future dealDavid McKelvey

The University of Cambridge has raised alarms about uncertainty regarding the impact of Brexit on EU staff and students in written evidence for the House of Commons Education Select Committee’s inquiry into Brexit’s impact on Higher Education.

Their statement informed the committee of their belief "that Brexit poses a significant risk to higher education”, citing in particular the prospect of a “‘cliff edge’ for universities in which regulatory and visa changes have a sudden and damaging impact”.

The scope of the inquiry is broad, and includes the likely impact of Brexit on EU students in England, the future of the Erasmus+ programme, and risks and opportunities for UK students.

The written evidence was submitted on behalf of the University of Cambridge by Professor Chris Abell, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research, Professor Eilís Ferran, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Institutional and International Relations, and Professor Graham Virgo, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Education.

While It was recognised that Brexit presented an opportunity to review the visa systems so that the country can “recruit the brightest and best students and academics from around the world”, the University were keen to point out the risks Brexit poses when it comes to visas and migration.

It requested that the government remove international students from any net migration target, provide greater clarity on plans regarding EU students finance, and clarify the status of EU staff working in the UK “as a matter of priority”.

Furthermore, it noted that the latest data on 2017 undergraduate applications revealed a drop of 14.1 per cent from the EU, suggesting that European students had been put off by the financial uncertainty surrounding Brexit. Fees for EU/EEA students are likely to increase with the repeal of the European Communities Act 1972 which protected their differentiated financial status. Under the Equality Act 2010, the continuation of this discrimination would be banned.

Under such circumstances, the University’s modelling anticipated a two-third reduction in admissions from the non-UK EU, a scenario it suggested would be matched at the graduate student level. To resolve this in the short term, it asked for assurance that EU students starting ahead of the date of UK exit will have the same fell/loan book status as UK students for the duration of their study

The University also emphasised the importance of calming uncertainty with regards to EU staff. Currently, the most common visa route for non-EEA professors, lecturers, and researchers seeking to work in the UK is the ‘Tier 2’ route. The statement noted that 17 per cent of University staff are EEA citizens and that future EEA nationals wanting to work there would have to follow the Tier 2 route. It therefore recommended that the government adopt “a radical upward revision of the Tier 2 ‘cap’”, currently set at a maximum of 20,700 per year.

It also encouraged the government to pursue continued involvement in Erasmus as part of any agreement over the future relationship with the EU. The University currently receives a €450k a year budget to support around 150 Erasmus students per year.

Concerns about impact on Higher Education were raised by Cambridge academics in the run-up to the referendum last June. Shortly before the vote, a Cambridge computer science professor claimed that the loss of direct research funding and other factors would cost the university in excess of £100 million a year; three times as damaging as the 2008 financial crisis.

The House of Commons Education Select Committee is still accepting submissions to be used as part of its inquiry. Submissions are not exclusively from Higher Education Institutions, with the City of London Corporation and Research Councils UK recently submitting evidence.

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