Welcome to this Brexit edition of Nu Connections
I wouldn’t say that the fog is beginning to lift on Brexit, but it is thinning out a bit.
Since I last wrote to you in June we now know, for example, that EU nationals who have lived continuously and lawfully in the UK for at least 5 years automatically have a permanent right to reside, and, if they have lived here for 6 years, are eligible to apply for British citizenship. For those of our staff members who wish to follow this route, the University will make available an interest-free loan to cover the cost. I know from personal experience that the process is quite detailed, so I have asked our DVC Prof Tony Stevenson and his European Project Monitoring Group to consider what level of expert advice we can make available to staff.
We have already decided that for all current EU students, as well as those registering in 2017, we will only charge home fees for the duration of their studies, even if that goes beyond the eventual Brexit date (at which point they technically become international students, so we must for the moment caveat this with some legal constraints). As of last week we know that these students will also be able to access the national home student loan system for the duration of their studies. A proposal is going from Senate to Council that we should also only charge home fees to students registering in 2018, for the duration of their studies.
At national level, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has guaranteed that all EU Horizon 2020 grants awarded to universities and signed off before the Autumn Statement on 23 November will be honoured by the government even if the projects thus funded continue after the date the UK has left the EU. Also, the House of Commons Education Select Committee will be running an inquiry on the impact of Brexit on the Higher Education Sector. It has issued a call for evidence on the impact of EU students studying in England and how to ensure UK universities remain competitive after we leave. We are working on a submission, which needs to be made by 11 November. If you would like to contribute any evidence please email Tony.Stevenson@ncl.ac.uk .
We have already submitted evidence to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee’s inquiry on Leaving the EU: Implications and Opportunities for Science and Research. We also continue to lobby government through the Russell Group and Universities UK on other aspects of Brexit affecting universities. At local level we are working with our City Council to make sure that Newcastle projects an image of being proud to have a diverse and talented body of students and academics from all over the world.
The Brexit matter remains high on the Executive Board agenda, not least because of its effect on staff morale. We are particularly concerned about recent government rhetoric on immigration. Personally, I never thought when I came to the UK in 2007 that I would hear a senior UK government minister propose from a public platform that companies, and presumably by extension universities, should monitor and report on their numbers of non-UK employees. I find the thought that we should do so repugnant. It is contrary to the idea that a university is a community of learning, open to all who have the ability and the wish to participate and benefit from it.
I was disappointed to hear the Prime Minister say that: “If you believe you are a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere. You don’t understand what the very word ‘citizenship’ means.” I disagree. I would submit that giving your loyalty to a second country, and making a contribution to its progress and success, is not dissimilar to having a second child: you do not halve your love, you double it.
We will continue to work for the idea that a university has, in its very being and purpose, an international aspect, as it has had since medieval days when wandering scholars commuted between Bologna and Paris and Oxford. We will continue to welcome and support, to whatever extent we can, pre- and post-Brexit, an international academic body.
And we would do well to keep in mind that most universities will outlast most governments.
With best regards
published on: 17th October 2016
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