With the likelihood of the Commons voting against the Brexit agreement negotiated between the May government and the EU and the prospect of a hard Brexit as the result, heads of prestigious UK universities have spoken in favour of a new referendum, as the Guardian newspaper reported on 27 November. The Vice-Chancellors of University College London, Warwick University and Cardiff University, all members of the Russell Group, as well as colleagues from outside this grouping and Paul Nurse, a British Nobel-prize winner, have warned of devastating effects of a ‘hard Brexit’ on UK higher education.
The institutional leaders seem to expect near-collateral damage from the UK being prevented to access the Horizon Europe programme estimated to be worth 100 billion Euros: They see research networks inside the UK and with European partners under threat and they fear that many of the about 36,000 European researchers at UK universities consider moving elsewhere, as well as some of their UK colleagues. They are also convinced that British universities will find it much harder than in the past to attract top talent and that a ‘hard Brexit’ will stand in the way of European exchange programmes.
A survey of Warwick University among some 77,000 UK students found that about 75% wanted a second referendum. The Nobel laureate heading the Crick Institute, Europe’s largest biomedical research facility, reported that 78% of his EU colleagues considered leaving in case of a ‘hard Brexit’ and that one third of UK staff did so too.