Brexit: A Disaster for Higher Education

Brexit – almost two months to go until the referendum but already the public are getting sick of the word, and rightly so. Neither side of the argument seems to have been able to tap into the public interest as of yet. For most of us it remains a distant but aggressive buzz, like a particularly annoying housefly.

However, when we take the time to stop and consider what is actually at stake it becomes clear that this is a historic vote.

The EU is the legacy of the terrible conflicts of the 20th century. It is a flawed, bureaucratic, administrative mess – but honestly, I believe that it’s the best that we can do.

We live in a world which is growing smaller by the day. Social media and better access to phone lines are bringing people across the world together like never before. It is now as easy to contact someone in Lisbon as it is London, and so it seem to me that attempts to distance ourselves from imperfect international communities are as reductive as Donald Trump’s suggestion that the answer to immigration problems is to build a wall.

Of course, I am coming at this referendum from the perspective of a student in Higher Education. Every day I meet and work with people from across the globe, from within the EU and beyond, and these people are an intrinsic part of what makes UK universities some of the best in the world. There are 125,000 EU students currently studying in the UK, and not only are they bringing important money into our HE sector but they are part of the vital networking groups that we need to help resolve the global problems we currently face.

Problems such as Global Warming and the clean energy crisis aren’t going to be resolved by a small handful of experts in one university, in one country – they can only be faced by a global co-ordinated effort. When we try to isolate ourselves from Europe we cut ourselves off not only from the EU market, but from the very people who can work with us to find solutions that benefit us all.

And it’s not just the people but the EU funding which is vital to our universities. Funding from Brussels is worth around £1bn a year. How can UK universities hope to continue generating world leading research when we turn our backs on the very organisations which make this possible?

I can’t hope to cover every aspect of the Brexit question in one short blog post. What you see here is merely a fragment from the tip of the iceberg. But what I do hope I can convey in some way, is that for all its flaws the EU is an opportunity to come together and work to solve the problems which affect us all. It’s not perfect, in fact it’s very problematic. But I truly believe that leaving will not solve any of our problems, but like the many headed Hydra, will only produce a dozen more.

But don’t just take my word for it. Whatever your opinion is, make sure it’s an informed one.