Expat brain drain robbing British universities of top talent

Published:  14 Jun at 6 PM
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Theresa May’s refusal to guarantee the right to remain for EU citizens has sparked an expat exodus from the field of education, including Britain’s top universities.

Now being referred to as the ‘expat brain drain’, top talent reaction to the threat of compulsory post-Brexit rehabilitation to the home country is to leave on its own terms rather than wait for the seemingly inevitable. Whilst experts are predicting the IT, engineering and financial services sectors will be worst affected, a number of the UK’s premier education institutes are already losing valuable staff.

Particularly affected to date are Cambridge and Edinburgh universities, losing the skills of 184 and 96 expats respectively or, in percentage terms, an increase from 2015/2016 of 35 and 62 per cent. The total number of expatriate academics packing their bags and heading home is now 1,300, and is expected to soar once Brexit negotiations are underway. A recent report from the Russell Group think-tank representing 24 leading UK universities reveals 23 per cent of Britain’s academic talent hails from EU countries, making educational institutions largely dependent on expatriate expertise.

Russell Group director Tim Bradshaw also notes international students as well as professors are considered a number one Brexit priority, saying the government should announce a guarantee of their right to remain as soon as is practicable. He believes the international nature of the UK education system is the main reason for its position as a world leader and badly needs an immigration system which recognises the importance of attracting the best minds from across the world.

One thing is certain, the academic brain drain needs to be stopped as soon as possible, as various EU member states are already stepping up their efforts to attract those leaving the UK . Both Spain and Germany are reaching out to top-talent EU expat professionals at British universities in the hope they will consider moving on. In addition, the same countries are attempting to prevent younger British academics from leaving, with the German Vice President believing dual citizenship should be looked at on a case-by-case basis in order to retain talented British citizens already in the country.
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