Brain drain feared as EU academics quit British universities

Published:  5 Jun at 6 PM
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Academics at leading British universities are fearing a Brexit brain drain as EU expats leave their jobs to return home.

Academics are voicing their concerns that Brexit will result in a top talent decline due to the British government’s failure to guarantee the rights to remain for foreign students and staff alike. According to Cambridge University, the brain drain is already happening, with 184 EU citizen staff leaving during the past year. In total, some 1,300 academics from EU member states have already left, showing a 30 per cent increase in departures over the last two years.
During the same period, Edinburgh University has witnessed the departure of 96 staff originally from EU countries, an increase on the previous year’s 62.

Whilst a number of European citizen staff leave annually as part of turnover, the increases have sparked fears of a government-inspired exodus of experts in diverse educational and research sectors. A recent Russell Group analysis involving 24 leading British universities showed the number of staff from EU member states at 24,860, 23 per cent of the total of academics at British universities. According to University and College Union general secretary Sally Hunt, the findings are a cause for serious concern and indicate the dangers of Theresa May’s refusal to guarantee rights to remain.

Hunt stated higher education must be international by its nature, focusing on the importance of cross-border exchanges of knowledge. The director of the Russell Group agrees, saying input from EU researchers and lecturers working in UK universities have helped the British higher education sector become a world leader in the sector. An immigration system which allows recruiting and retaining the best and brightest academic minds from across the world is essential to Britain’s reputation in further education and research, he adds.
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