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In the last edition of Prosper, we looked at the impact Brexit is having across a range of Black Country business sectors, in this edition we turn once again to the academics at the Centre for Brexit Studies based at Birmingham City University for their expert opinion on how Brexit is affecting our education sector.


We spoke to Dr Steven McCabe, Senior Fellow at the Centre for Brexit Studies.

Leaving the EU without arrangements for pre-18 education, i.e. Schools and Further Education Colleges, would create change for both pupils, students and, of course, those who teach them,” Steven explained.

“The most obvious would be an end to the freedom of movement and goods that currently exists. As part of the agreement achieved in Maastricht in December 1991 was the Single European Act (SEA) that became the law covering all EU members in 1992 and which created freedom of movement of goods, services, capital and workers.

“Leaving without a deal would end these freedoms and have a potentially disruptive impact on the ability of pupils to travel freely on trips and exchange schemes that have been extremely popular. Equally, those teachers who are from EU countries must apply to be part of the ‘Settlement Scheme’. Unless they do so, they will not enjoy the ability to work and live in the UK. Given what has been stated in the withdrawal agreement that has been negotiated with the other EU members, there are lingering uncertainties about workers’ rights. Crucially, the continuance of recognition of teaching qualifications across the EU is not something that can be taken for granted.

“Advocates of Brexit argue that leaving the EU will mean that it becomes easier to recruit teaching staff from other non-EU countries. This may be so but, as management of schools and colleges will attest, the bureaucracy of achieving the intended outcomes merely adds to the already extremely high levels and attendant costs.”

Dr McCabe continued, “Following the decision to leave by voters in the June 2016 referendum, some teachers have already concluded that the environment that was once benign no longer exists and have returned to their home country. This represents a loss of vital talent. Equally, UK teachers who were able to take up teaching opportunities in any of the other 27 EU countries will not be able to do so with the unfettered ability they enjoy at present.

“There are those who warn that leaving without arrangements to continue the four cherished freedoms would have negative consequences on supply chains for schools and colleges that would disrupt everything from building materials and vital medicines to specialist equipment for SEN students. Any disruption creates uncertainty and additional costs for organisations that, because of spending cuts in recent years, are already hard-pressed.

“Some schools and colleges may be hit by falling numbers of students; especially if EU citizens who work here return to their home country, and their children withdraw as a result. Though the effects will be limited, the consequential impact on individual institutions, particularly in metropolitan areas such as the West Midlands and populated cities like Birmingham and Wolverhampton, cannot be disregarded.”

But Dr McCabe concluded, “Undoubtedly, the greatest concern for schools and colleges is the undermining of harmony and understanding that was possible through regular visits and exchanges.


These were, most particularly for those from deprived backgrounds, a way to experience culture elsewhere and, as such, utterly transformational. Such trips create bonds that allow both students and staff to enjoy friendships and relationships that are priceless. With continued Brexit uncertainty, the true impact that leaving the EU will have on education within the West Midlands will no doubt become much clearer in 2020.”


We asked Bethan Tolley, Communications Officer at the Centre for Brexit Studies for her thoughts on the subject.

With so many higher education institutes within the West Midlands, a huge question mark hangs over the future of all of them in a post-Brexit landscape,” Bethan highlighted.

“The Black Country is of course home to the University of Wolverhampton, but just a stone’s throw away we have Birmingham City University, University of Birmingham, Aston University, Staffordshire University, Coventry University and many colleges within the region which offer similar courses.

“In 2017/18 there were 458,000 overseas students studying at UK universities, with 139,000 coming from within the European Union. The UK has, in recent years, been the second most popular global destination for international students after the USA. However, market share has been slipping; with other English-speaking countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada now seeing significant increases in overseas students. The decline to UK universities has been attributed to a wide range of factors, from student visa arrangements and the net migration target. However, since 2016, the decline has also been because of Brexit,” Bethan said.

“Though there is variation across the sector, EU students are incredibly important to the Higher Education sector. These students have been allowed to enter UK universities on a basis that is identical to applicants indigenous to the UK. A loss of EU students coming to the West Midlands and the UK represents a loss of vital income.

“The very high potential of the UK leaving the EU in 2020 could actually undermine the willingness of students from countries within the EU27 to apply to British universities. With the UK voting to leave the EU, many students from outside of the UK may not be able to study at British universities, at least without it being an easy process as it is at present. These students may also face higher fees.”

She continued, “EU students can offer alternative perspectives to the established ways of thinking and, at postgraduate level, input into developing research agendas. This will be a loss of research income from EU funders that could occur after the UK ceases to be a member.

“According to Universities UK, the consequences of a No Deal Brexit for British universities will undermine continued participation in Horizon 2020 and Erasmus programmes as well as funding of skills development through ‘Structural Funds’ including European Social Funds (ESF).

“Qualifications that are currently gained at any university in the existing 28 EU members are mutually recognisable. As Universities UK state, should a No Deal scenario occur, the current mutual recognition of the professional qualifications (MRPQ) system between the EEA, Switzerland and the UK will cease. Therefore, a new qualification recognition system will need to operate after Brexit.”

Bethan said, “This has the potential to cause some concern and potential disruption for systems and protocols that have taken many years to implement. The Government seem to appreciate the need to continue to operate recognition of qualifications after a No Deal Brexit. This is comforting but does not remove uncertainty.”

She concluded, “There is still uncertainty as to what will happen if, and when, the UK leaves the EU. Much depends on the nature of the final deal. Assuming the withdrawal deal were to be a success, nothing will change in the transition period. However, this will only last until 31st December 2020 and, if a free trade agreement with the EU is not achieved, the UK would leave the EU with none of the arrangements covering aspects of training and education vital to the next generation who will be instrumental to this country’s continued prosperity. UK citizens will continue to go to university long after we have left the EU, but the impact that EU students not coming to study in the UK could have will no doubt last for much longer.”