March 14, 2016, by Editor

Why remaining in the EU is so important for students

Written by Amy Longland.

With the referendum fast approaching, the Leave and Remain camps are preparing to ramp up their campaign efforts. Both campaigns are hoping to engage all sectors of society in order to swing the vote in their favour. Public debate so far has failed to adequately address the direct repercussions that a Brexit would have on current and future students. By doing so, both campaigns risk shutting out around 2 million student voters who are currently on the fence and, could be decisive in the referendum. This is a far cry from the Scottish Independence Referendum which directly engaged with younger voters and saw, in response, an unprecedented turnout. Now, It’s our turn.

We need students to register and cast their vote and to motivate them we must highlight those issues they would find most relevant. In our current, disengaged climate most students fail to realise that the decision we make on June the 23rd will have a fundamental affect on their future. There will be significant consequences following a British exit from the European Union and young people will, as is so often the case, carry the heaviest burden. It’s for this reason that making sure they’re engaged and helping make that decision has become so important.

As a student myself, I am fully aware that the real world is a constantly shifting minefield that I must face upon graduating. It is a fact well known that a student must do everything they can to succeed and compete in an ever-decreasing job market. It’s also increasingly obvious that our careers may transcend traditional state borders and become fully encompassed by the modern, globalised world. In such a world it would be incredibly reckless to attempt to seal ourselves off and attempt to deny the modern reality for a vague promise of the past.

133 University Vice-Chancellors have now warned that leaving the European Union would damage graduate’s job prospects.Thousands of jobs for British nationals involve working within the EU institutions that, for them at least, would no longer exist. Beyond these direct results, jobs within the UK would be greatly threatened. Around 3.5 million British jobs, thats 1 in 10, are linked to British membership of the European Union’s single market. This includes over 300,000 British companies and the 74% of British exporters operating in other EU markets. Added to this, bosses at more than a third of the companies in the FTSE 100, including Vodafone, GlaxoSmithKline, easyjet, Barclays, BT and Shell – some of the biggest and most important providers of graduate schemes – have warned about the damaging effects of Brexit on investment and jobs. In a further blow for the leave campaign these warnings were reinforced by the Bank of England’s Mark Carney who acknowledged that the Bank may need to make Billions available to make up for lost investment.

The Vice-Chancellors, along with Universities UK, Scientists for EU and Universities for EU, have also warned about the disastrous consequences of Brexit on research and teaching. Mr. Chuka Umunna, the shadow Business Secretary, has said: ‘Britain is a world leader in higher education. Through our EU membership, we punch above our weight in winning funding for research from the EU, while also benefitting from greater collaboration across borders.’ (www.independent.co.uk). He’s correct – the UK is the second largest beneficiary of EU research funds which ensures that Universities such as the University of Nottingham can remain cutting edge and research-led. Thich is further strengthened by our membership of the ‘biggest block of knowledge in the world’ (www.universitiesuk.ac.uk). Whilst funding will still be available, can we really be sure that investment in education will continue in a meaningful and sustainable way? The EU provides a crucial financial safety net and a vital framework for research at UK universities, as well as encouraging and facilitating the cooperation of top researchers and academics – something that cannot be guaranteed if the UK leaves the EU.

The Erasmus programme, which is the opportunity to travel to another European country as part of the degree course – has benefitted more than 200,000 British students to date. Outward student mobility is essential in preparing students for an ever-expanding global workplace. Going on a year abroad enables students to experience an educational journey, meeting people from all corners of the globe, expanding their cultural and social knowledge and understanding. It also gives students a chance to contribute to further academic opportunities and help grow the knowledge economy whilst creating a network of global citizens. In 2013/24, over 10,000 UK students were studying in continental Europe, helped by the cheap nature of travel and low tuition fees. If the UK left the EU, students wishing to live, work and study in Europe might have to pay the same fees as non-EU/EEA residents which would be in the tens of thousands. This, coupled with the possibility of having to obtain a visa, would create barriers for students and young people that want to travel. This is something we can cannot afford since the UK already has the second lowest level of outward student mobility in Europe. For Beth Button, NUS Wales President, this is characteristic of an already insular society, and  whilst a Brexit wouldn’t instantly shut off this channel, it’s the symbolic act of insularity and the message that sends to the rest of the world that will truly inhibit the future prospects of students.

Perhaps most importantly students will be amongst those most affected by the loss of opportunities for cheap travel and free movement that we currently enjoy as part of the European Union. We are ‘generation easyjet’: fully capitalising on cheap flights, cheap coaches and cheap interrailing across Europe. In the event of a Brexit, flight prices will sky-rocket as low-price airlines are forced to comply with stricter tariffs and regulations. It will not be as simple as hopping on the Eurostar or Ryanair with the possibility of stricter and more expensive visa regulations if the UK leaves the EU.

There is everything to lose and nothing to gain for students if the UK leaves the EU. Students are arguably the a vital part of this debate because, if they engage and register to vote, they could change the outcome. There can be no denying that students benefit from Europe and we must fight hard to keep the UK within it. We cannot allow the prejudices of older generations to inhibit our future prospects and opportunities; prospects for which membership of the EU is essential. Let this be where we take a stand!

Amy Longland is a masters student of International Relations and Global Issues. She spent a year abroad studying in Toulouse and is also part of Franco-British Connections. She currently co-heads the pro-EU student campaign group Nottingham Students for Europe. You can contact Amy via nottingham@one-europe.info. Image credit: Wikipedia Commons.

Join the campaign: www.facebook.com/NottsSFE nottingham@one-europe.info

Posted in Student voices