IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


Brexit and the issues facing UK higher education

27 July 2017

EU flag and Union Jack flag

A new policy briefing by the Centre for Global Higher Education (CGHE) at the UCL Institute of Education (IOE) outlines some of the consequences of Brexit for UK higher education institutions.

In the briefing, Dr Ludovic Highman, Senior Research Associate at CGHE, addresses the main higher education areas that will be affected by Brexit. These include EU research programmes, Erasmus+ and the free movement of staff and students.

Dr Highman argues that the uncertainty over future EU research funds calls for a rethinking of EU research and development (R&D) investment. Brexit requires UK universities to take a more proactive role at the centre of new free trade agreements in the competitive higher education market. Dr Highman believes that this change requires a cross-government strategy, as well as for universities to position themselves as gateways to their regions.

Universities will need greater public engagement and links with local businesses and industry, notably through expanding mechanisms such as the Higher Education Innovation Funding and Knowledge Transfer Partnerships. Dr Highman argues that this approach will 'increase UK universities' clout in future trade agreements, while maximising their potential benefits'.

When exploring EU research and innovation funds, Dr Highman explains that over the last half century, EU institutions shaped an open European area for higher learning and research in which the UK has become deeply involved. He notes that Horizon 2020 is the only international research and innovation programme of its scale in the world, with a budget of €80 billion for 2014-20. Although association to Horizon 2020 is possible for non-EU countries, access to the multi-billion EU framework implies EU membership.

Dr Highman also touches on the implications for Erasmus+, the EU's all-encompassing programme to support education, training, youth and sport in Europe. He says that alternative mobility schemes will need to be devised, but that while 'going global' sounds appealing, it should not be assumed that the demand exists within the UK-based student body.

The briefing draws on CGHE's research project, 'Brexit, trade, migration and higher education', which focuses on UK higher education institutions' perceptions of and responses to Brexit and associated challenges.

Media contact

Anna Phillips
Tel: 020 7331 5255
Email: anna.phillips@ucl.ac.uk