Fear of Brexit brain drain as EU nationals leave British universities

More than 1,300 academics from the European Union have left British universities in the past year, prompting concerns of a Brexit brain drain.

There has been a 30% rise in departures of EU staff in just two years, according to data released by dozens of universities under the Freedom of Information Act.

Among those universities most affected were Cambridge, which lost 184 staff in the past year, up 35% on 2014-15, and Edinburgh, which lost 96 EU staff, up from 62 in 2014-15. However, the figures do not take into account new staff arriving from the EU.

The 64 universities that offered a figure for the past year said that 1,393 EU staff were leaving. While many will leave as part of natural turnover, it has prompted concerns that the government’s refusal to guarantee the rights of EU nationals is having an adverse effect on their ability to retain staff.

A recent analysis by the Russell Group, which represents 24 of the UK’s leading universities, found that there are 24,860 members of staff from other EU countries at UK universities, making up 23% of all academics.

Sally Hunt, the general secretary of the University and College Union, said: “These findings are worrying and highlight how damaging the government’s refusal to guarantee the rights of EU staff can be. Theresa May may wish to style herself as the strong and stable candidate, but she is creating dangerous insecurity in our universities.

“By its very nature, higher education is international, and the exchange of knowledge across borders is critical to its success. If we are to preserve our global reputation for excellence, our universities must be unencumbered when it comes to attracting and retaining overseas staff and students.”


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