Blog 19th September 2019

Sep 19th 2019, 16:13

Blog 19th September 2019

In this week’s blog, I refer to: Education, Brexit, Yellowhammer, Freedom of Movement, European Union, National Association of Head Teachers, the Observer, European Social Fund, Gavin Esler, University of Kent, Erasmus, UK Council for International Student Affairs, Michael Gove, Housing Finance, Seminars & Training.

In previous blogs I have referred to the government’s Yellowhammer report and to the effect that ‘Brexit’ may have on health, housing, police, social care and several other public services. This week I thought that I would look at Education.

‘Freedom of Movement’ has allowed teachers and lecturers throughout the European Union to work in other European countries. This has been of great benefit to individuals who have been able to take advantage of this but has also benefitted schools and colleges that have been able to recruit a diverse staff including specialists from other countries. British schools, colleges and universities have been major beneficiaries.

Britain already has a shortage of teachers, especially in mathematics and physics, and most do not hold a relevant degree. This is despite British schools recruiting a significant number of maths and physics teachers from other European Union countries. In 2017/18. Over 3,500 teachers from other European Union countries received qualified teacher status in Britain. However, this was 25% fewer than in the previous year. In Scotland, the number of European Union teachers applying to teach there fell to only fourteen during the year ended June 2018.The ending of the ‘Freedom of Movement’ and the ‘hostile environment’ to ‘migrants’ is likely to reduce these numbers further. Ian Hartwright, Senior Policy Advisor at the National Association of Head Teachers told the ‘Observer’ that European Union teachers were:

“Filling gaps and mitigating a recruitment and retention crisis in teaching here and positively improving the lives of young people in England and the United Kingdom.”

British schools currently access £3billion of European Social Fund grants for local projects with young people, libraries and adult learning. When Britain leaves the European Union, this funding will no longer be available from the European Union. The United Kingdom government has yet to commit to replacing it.

The fall in the value of Sterling following the ‘Brexit’ vote has already impacted negatively on the finances of schools, colleges and universities. For example, Microsoft increased the price of its software services by 22% while Apple increased the price of its computers and laptops by 20%.

Britain has some of the best universities in the world, attracting numerous foreign students, many of whom stay in Britain and many of whom return to their own countries with a knowledge of Britain. This greatly increases Britain’s ‘soft power’ in the world by providing an important international network of contacts. There are also economic advantages. Total spending by international students and their visitors generates £25.8billion in gross output and supports 200,000 jobs; while universities and colleges with overseas campuses generate £10.8billon a year in export earnings.

Newton Rigg College in Cumbria where I have lectured in accountancy.

The challenges faced by universities are even greater than those faced by schools. In 2017/18, 18% of university academic staff were from other European Union countries. Gavin Esler, the Chancellor of the University of Kent, has pointed out that:

“Universities fear serious problems from losing some of the best brains in the world, otherwise known as their European Union staff. They are already experiencing difficulties attracting well qualified replacements and there are real concerns about loss of research co-operation and funding or co-funding from European institutions.

“Spanish universities, to take one example, and planning to close Erasmus scholarships for British students as a result of Brexit. Erasmus is a wonderful programme. It helps students find international study placements and obtain the scholarships which help pay for them. Since Britain is a higher education powerhouse, British students have been among its greatest beneficiaries.”

In 2018 there were 135,000 students in Britain from other European Union countries. According to the Department for Education their presence generated £2.7billion of revenue. Their future status and that of other European Union students who may wish to study in Britain in future is not clear. In April 2019, the United Kingdom Council for International Student Affairs stated that:

“If a final agreement is reached, European Union, non-European Union, European Economic Area and Swiss citizens and their eligible family members already in the United Kingdom before 30 March 2019 and those who come to the United Kingdom during the transitional / implementation period can apply for immigration permission in the United Kingdom under a scheme designed by the United Kingdom government known as the European Union Settlement scheme. They will need to do this if they wish to remain in the United Kingdom after the end of the transitional / implementation period or otherwise apply under another category of the immigration rules.

“If an agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union is not reached, the settlement scheme will operate in a much more restricted capacity, and there will be separate provisions for those coming to the United Kingdom from 30 March 2019.

“There has, as yet, been no decision on either fee status or student support for those planning to arrive in the United Kingdom to study a further or higher education course in the academic year 2020/21… There have been no decisions on fee status or student support (for 2021/22) following the United Kingdom’s full withdrawal from the European Union.”

The effect of all this is that British universities will find it challenging to attract European Union students with a consequent loss of both talent and revenue. As Gavin Esler points out:

“Attracting undergraduates to England and Wales means a commitment of three years, to Scotland of four years. For PhD students the commitment is generally at least three years and four or five years is not uncommon… Why would any clever student in Hamburg or Perugia or Paris apply for a United Kingdom course lasting several years knowing that nothing is certain about their legal status after the first year?”

The number of applications that British universities receive from European Union students reduced in 2019; and the Higher Education Policy Institute has calculated that European Union student applications could reduce by 60% when Britain leaves the European Union. If the universities contract, they will be able to offer fewer courses making them less attractive to United Kingdom students.

Gavin Esler considers that:

“Brexit will be a cultural and educational disaster which makes the United Kingdom intellectually poorer, less inventive and less competent.”

All of this provides signifcant risks and challenges for schools, universities and colleges.

Michael Gove MP, when he was Secretary of State for Education, famously remarked that the British people:

“Have had enough of experts.”

And now the government’s policies for Education with ‘Brexit’ appear to be designed to ensure that, in future, there will be fewer experts in Britain!

Salford University for which I have prepared materials for housing courses.

For further information about services that we offer academic institutions, please click here.

Our seminar on ‘All You Want to Know about English Local Authority Housing Finance’ will be held in London on 5th November 2019. This is a very useful introduction and overview of this very important subject. For further information or to make a booking, please click here.

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