Would leaving the EU affect education?

25th February 2016

In terms of current issues in the UK, there is perhaps nothing that will be more prevalent in the news and media over the next few months than the EU referendum. We have already heard, from various parties, both political and non-political, how the result of this referendum will have huge significance on the future of the UK in a multitude of areas.

So, I was curious to know what people are saying about the Brexit vs Stay in the EU debate in regard to education. I found that most arguments focus on the effects that will be had on Higher Education, with the popular argument from universities appearing to land on the side of staying-in. The article recently written by Nigel Morris from The Independent presents, as one might expect, a somewhat leftist view of things, saying that university officials are actively supporting the campaigns to stay in the EU.
In the article itself, these representatives from universities make a number of points in favour of their argument. To begin with, the article states that the EU has created jobs in Higher Education, a fact that would appear to be indisputable given the fact that, without EU students, universities would fill a significant amount less places, and staff numbers would necessarily fall: seems obvious enough.

Another claim they make is, and quote, that: “The European Union supports research, knowledge, innovation and technology – the factors that will decide future economic growth, productivity and human progress.” And there of course is basis to say that, yes, the EU does support these areas and therefore our membership of the EU must be crucial to these industries, right? But what the article doesn’t tell us is how much of the £33,000,000/day Britain pays the EU we get back in this way, and whether, economically-speaking, such industries of innovation and technology are truly better off In than they would be Out.
This is not something to which I know the answer; however, there is something that I feel the article is not saying. Namely, whether or not our EU membership actually benefits British students, or, perhaps even more controversially, British graduates.

As a graduate with a number of friends who attended my university through the Erasmus Scheme, I can’t help but be personally aware that the ‘staying figure’ after university of EU students who wish to find graduate employment in the UK is rather high.

My question is whether the increased competitiveness this fact creates really benefits any of us, EU or otherwise? One major issue I take with my own university is that there is no distinction made in published figures between graduates who are employed and those that are employed in graduate jobs. Such things have perhaps made many in my position sceptical of whether the universities in this country really serve our interests, or if there are instead vested interests driving their decisions, such as the fact that without EU students they would fill fewer places, and thus, make less money.

Nigel Morris, EU referendum: ‘Brexit’ would harm higher education and research, universities claim; The Independent Online; http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/eu-referendum-brexit-would-harm-higher-education-and-research-universities-claim-10417379.html , Sunday 26 July 2015.

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