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Downward trend in the number of EU academics staying in the UK

According to the latest data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency, more than 600 EU academics living in the UK went to work in an institution overseas in 2019 in comparison to 2015, when only 340 EU academics moved to an overseas institution. In total, 1120 EU academics were reported to have departed the UK in 2019 for a job or studies overseas, an increase of nearly 70% from 2015.

Academics have pointed out Brexit as the main reason for such a drastic change of the trend. The UK’s formal withdrawal from the European Union in January of last year, and the subsequent trade agreement in December may have changed the prospects of EU academics. Moving to other EU member state is administratively an easier alternative for any EU citizen.

The UK will need to attract more researchers in the future to revert this trend. However, the UK’s new Global Talent Visa, the main post-Brexit visa targeting academics, has been portrayed as a route for high-quality academics to move to the UK. Recently, the application process has been simplified for prestigious awards winners. Applicants who have won a qualifying prize can skip the endorsement process and submit a single visa application instead. Nevertheless, the UK might require an approach which is not focusing on award-winning academics but rather aiming at expanding the pool of talent in order to attract higher numbers of international academics.