EU Referendum result: How will Brexit affect the UK’s higher education system?

Industry leaders are responding to the news that Britain has voted to leave the European Union after 45 years membership.


More than 17 million voted for a Brexit securing 51.9 per cent of the vote.

On Monday, 103 universities issued an open letter expressing their concerns about the impact of a UK exit from the EU on universities and students.

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The signatories added: “The impact of our universities on our local communities and economy should not be underestimated.  Every year, universities generate over £73 billion for the UK economy – £3.7bn of which is generated by students from EU countries, while supporting nearly 380,000 jobs. 
“Strong universities benefit the British people — creating employable graduates and cutting-edge research discoveries that improve lives.”
Referendum results have showed students were on the side of Remain with some 75 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds voted Remain, compared to around 40 per cent of over 65s.
Here are some of the industry reactions on the Referendum results. 
Association of Colleges
Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges Martin Doel insisted that students and colleges must be properly supported during the Brexit process, stressing the negative impact of political uncertainty on college budget-planning. He referred to the possible postponing of the apprenticeship levy.
He said: “Whatever the future holds for Britain once it leaves the EU, colleges and their students must be properly supported.  They are, and must continue to be, at the forefront of providing education and training to ensure people are skilled and that companies stay competitive.
“Colleges are currently planning their budgets for 2016-17 and uncertainty over the future of their funding leaves them unable to plan accurately for the coming year. The Government must make it clear as soon as possible how it will continue to fund education and training for the good of everyone.
“Specific areas of concern relate to the money pledged for training via the European Social Fund and the Skills Minister Nick Boles’ comments that the apprenticeship levy may need to be postponed. In an uncertain world, the Government needs to prioritise spending on education and training.”
Association of Employment and Learning Providers
The national body urged caution against delaying the April 2017 start for the apprenticeship levy, stressing that the referendum result meant that a skilled British workforce was needed more than ever. 
Universities UK
Universities UK, the higher education action group which is “the voice of universities,” expressed its disappointment considering the group had vigorously campaigned for the union to remain.
Dame Julia Goodfellow, President of Universities UK said: “Leaving the EU will create significant challenges for universities. Although this is not an outcome that we wished or campaigned for, we respect the decision of the UK electorate. We should remember that leaving the EU will not happen overnight – there will be a gradual exit process with significant opportunities to seek assurances and influence future policy.
‘Throughout the transition period our focus will be on securing support that allows our universities to continue to be global in their outlook, internationally networked and an attractive destination for talented people from across Europe. These features are central to ensuring that British universities continue to be the best in the world. 
‘Our first priority will be to convince the UK Government to take steps to ensure that staff and students from EU countries can continue to work and study at British universities in the long term, and to promote the UK as a welcoming destination for the brightest and best minds. They make a powerful contribution to university research and teaching and have a positive impact on the British economy and society. We will also prioritise securing opportunities for our researchers and students to access vital pan-European programmes and build new global networks.
Russell Group 
The Russell Group stressed how much uncertainty the decision to leave the EU would case for universities and that it would seek assurances from the Government that EU funding to universities would be replaced and sustained long term.
Dr Wendy Piatt, Director General of the Russell Group, said: “Leaving the European Union creates significant uncertainty for our leading universities but we will work with the Government to minimise any disruption caused by this decision. Throughout the campaign both sides acknowledged the value of EU funding to our universities and we will be seeking assurances from the Government that this will be replaced and sustained long term.
“The UK has not yet left the EU so it is important that our staff and students from other member countries understand that there will be no immediate impact on their status at our universities. However, we will be seeking assurances from the Government that staff and students currently working and studying at our universities can continue to do so after the UK negotiates leaving the EU. 
“The free movement of talent, the networks, collaborations, critical mass of research activity and funding from EU membership have played a crucial part in the success of Russell Group universities. We will be working closely with the Government to secure the best deal for universities from the negotiations to come so that we can continue to form productive collaborations across Europe.”
Following Brexit, the UK will now follow procedures set out in Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty on the European Union which establishes a two year timeframe for negotiations between the withdrawing state and the EU. During the two year negotiation period, EU laws still apply to the UK.
National Union of Students 
Overall, NUS said it is “disappointed” by the results, particularly given the high proportion of young voters who are reported to have voted Remain.
The Association of School and College Leavers
The professional body said there undoubtedly be an effect on the education system and that it would be working constructively with the Government to ensure the transition is as smooth as possible with safeguards for the interests of schools, colleges and young people. 


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