March 13, 2017, by David Greenaway
As you will have seen in the news recently, the government is preparing to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty – the formal two-year mechanism by which we will leave the EU.
What does that mean for us, as a university? What does it mean for our staff and students, for our international partnerships, for our role as a global institution?
It goes without saying that our relationship with Europe will change in the months and years after Article 50 is triggered. Some of those changes are yet to be determined.
But equally, there is much that has not changed.
Our University remains a global institution with an international outlook, an excellent reputation and significant ambition for the future. Our international community of students and staff remain at the very heart of the University. With students from more than 150 countries, we have a global alumni community that has been built up over many decades. With campuses in three countries and extensive experience of working with international partners we are in a strong position to deal with new challenges.
Preparing for the future
We have already done a great deal of work to prepare for our new relationship with the EU, to put support in place for colleagues who may be affected by changes and ensure we secure the best possible outcome for The University of Nottingham and UK higher education more broadly.
Following the outcome of the referendum vote in June 2016, an EU Task Force chaired by Professor Karen Cox, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, has been leading our strategy to deal with all potential issues related to Brexit and the EU.
As well as intelligence-gathering and lobbying activity, the EU Task Force has overseen a programme of communications with staff, current students and prospective students, and the creation of web resources to guide and inform all our stakeholders. A number of events and open forums have been delivered to offer advice to staff and researchers, and seminars and workshops have been held to provide guidance on HR, legal and immigration issues with more planned this spring.
In addition to the Task Force, an EU Referendum Expert Advisory Group has been established under the leadership of Professor Dame Jessica Corner, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange. We have a reservoir of EU-related expertise among our academic and APM staff, and the Advisory Group is ensuring we make full use of that knowledge and experience.
Underlying all of this activity is a flexible, agile approach to a changing world; an approach that encourages us to look outwards, extend our horizons, and forge new relationships with the international community.
The impact of Brexit
This approach will help us mitigate the impact of Brexit.
Through the EU Task Force, we have established a system of monitoring and assessing the impact of the Referendum result on different parts of the University. From what we can tell so far, student applications from the EU have decreased – in line with the rest of the UK HE sector – with roughly a 7% drop in undergraduate applications as of the 23 January UCAS data release. We will continue to monitor this and are stepping-up our efforts across the board to attract applicants from across the EU (and internationally) at both UG and PG level.
In terms of EU research applications and success rates, however, there has actually been an increase in both the proposals we lead, and are involved in – within the ‘Excellent Science’ funding portfolio.
Where our staff are concerned, while there was an initial dip in applications from non-UK EEA nationals in the immediate aftermath of the Referendum result, this recovered quickly in the following months.
We continue to monitor the situation carefully, and encourage all staff to let the Task Force know of any examples of the impact of the Referendum result affecting them by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
We now know that the UK Government have included science and innovation as one of twelve objectives for Brexit – with the Prime Minister’s Lancaster House speech citing the role of universities in supporting the ‘breadth and depth of our academic and scientific communities’. We know the voices of the scientific and university community are being heard by the Government’s most senior politicians and officials – indeed, in my role as Russell Group Chair, I have been personally involved in many of these discussions.
We know our partners in industry, business and local government are powerfully making the case for the economic, social and cultural benefits of a Britain open to talented students, staff and partners.
But we also know that ending freedom of movement is a Government priority in the forthcoming negotiations, and that management of immigration is still an overriding policy objective for this Prime Minister.
So what is that we, at the University of Nottingham, can do to chart a course through this uncertainty, mitigate the risks emerging from the Brexit process and seize the opportunities that lie ahead?
- For our international staff, we continue to offer support, advice and guidance, with HR EU Referendum pages that are regularly updated.
- For our research community and partners, we are unwavering in our dedication to international collaboration, delivering world-class research and supporting those who carry it out. Our EU and Research webpages outline the support available.
- For our current and future students, we believe opportunities for international student mobility is an essential part of being a student at Nottingham and we will take whatever steps necessary to ensure current opportunities are protected.
- We will continue to lobby the policy community in the UK and Europe for the University’s interests to be protected throughout the Brexit negotiation period and beyond.
- We will continue to monitor, and model the projected impacts of Brexit on University business – acting quickly and decisively to mitigate risk and seize opportunities.
- We will expand our teaching and research partnerships in Europe – demonstrating our commitment to European collaboration will continue, regardless of the outcomes of the Brexit negotiations
The challenge ahead
Over the next few years and probably beyond, the University will be operating in a turbulent, complex and uncertain environment that will directly affect all of us that work, study, learn and teach at Nottingham.
I remain optimistic that we at the University of Nottingham can overcome whatever issues arise, and continue to grow and thrive in the future.
I am optimistic because, for me, at the heart of what defines the identity of our staff and students is a genuine sense of community, inclusion and collegiality that connect us all. Regardless of what challenges lie ahead, it is through maintaining this sense of shared identity and community that will allow the University of Nottingham to remain strong, positive and resilient as we move forward together.