University of Portsmouth vice-chancellor expresses concerns for post Brexit education

THE VICE-chancellor of the University of Portsmouth says he is worried about the future of his institution and higher education as a whole after Brexit.

As the March 29 withdrawal deadline approaches, vice-chancellor Graham Galbraith fears both universities and the British economy will be worse off. 

Vice-chancellor of the University of Portsmouth - Prof Graham Galbraith

Vice-chancellor of the University of Portsmouth - Prof Graham Galbraith

He said: ‘I am keen to learn the arrangements around EU students. We have about 1,000 students from the EU who attend the university. This accounts for around five per cent of our population. If increased costs prohibit some students from studying at the university, this will affect our ability to offer some courses, especially at the postgraduate level, and our ability to provide the very best for all of our students.’ 

The vice chancellor is concerned about the message any restrictions on the movement of EU students may have on both education and the nation’s image.

‘The UK is one of the most attractive destinations for international students. If Brexit does anything that sends out the message that we do not welcome foreign students then that could cause a major problem for the UK economy and our diplomatic reach.

‘And universities represent a multicultural society which brings important diversity to the student experience. Education is an international pursuit which requires engagement across borders,’ he said.

As well as the potential ramifications a restrictive Brexit could bring for foreign students studying at UK universities, Mr Galbraith also feels it would detrimental for British students wishing to experience studying abroad.

‘Brexit might make exchange programmes more difficult for students and universities. Many of our courses include the opportunity to spend a year studying abroad. Potential increased costs for students would make this far more difficult to implement. For many students, living and studying abroad is a transformative experience which many employers really value and want,’ said the vice-chancellor.

Another potential issue is the impact funding changes could have on enabling students from less affluent families to study abroad.

‘At present the Erasmus+ programme provides EU funding to students which enables them to study abroad. It is a big concern as if this funding is not replaced it will especially hit students from more socially deprived backgrounds. I hope the government replaces this funding with a global student exchange programme as part of its broader ‘Global Britain’ agenda,’ he added.

The vice-chancellor has also expressed concerns regarding the potential impact on university research programmes. British research is one of the greatest financial beneficiaries of membership of the EU. Between 2007 and 2013, the UK received £8bn from the EU for research. Although non-EU members are eligible to receive EU research funding they have no say in the development of research projects.

Whilst the Department for Education acknowledge the concerns of universities such as Portsmouth they are confident that Brexit will not result in a dramatic decline in students from the EU.

A spokesman for the DfE said: ‘EU students and staff make an important contribution to our universities. We want that contribution to continue and are confident – given the quality of our higher education sector – that it will.’

Whilst the government have given assurances to students currently enrolled on the Erasmus programme they have yet to confirm potential proposals to succeed this scheme.

A spokesman said: ‘As agreed, the UK will continue to benefit from and contribute to all EU programmes, including Erasmus, until the end of the current budget plan.’