Giving evidence to the Education Select Committee at Oxford University on the impact of Brexit on higher education which took place on Wednesday 11 January, Prof John Latham, Vice-Chancellor of WMCU member Coventry University, said:
“Brexit doesn’t give us more advantage to do things and it’s not taking away – it’s the way we do things that will be different.
“It does give us an opportunity to go more global, more quickly. We are already seeing universities from the UK setting up operations on a global scale, so we need to look at working with EU and international partners in the same way so we have the ability to maintain growth.
“Each university is going to have to look at its model, I am sure some will reduce in size and scale while others will grow.”
Agreeing that students’ immigration status should be re-examined he explained: “The sad thing is that if you get a really good student, who might come [to the UK] to improve their English, then move on to a post-graduate course, then stay on and become a researcher – at the moment that is four immigrations, but only one person.”
Highlighting the importance of EU students and staff, Professor Latham said he wanted to see universities’ relationships with European countries maintained: “We need to make sure we have a system that allows us access to countries, and EU member states are a key element of that. Nine per cent of my staff are EU staff, quite a significant number, and 2,000 of our students are from the EU.
“Europe has given us a great opportunity to have freedom of movement and the opportunity to bring people together to work collaboratively, and being recognised as part of a significant economic grouping has given us some advantage in the international market.”
Over a quarter of Coventry’s research income from is from EU programmes. Speaking about the potential impact of Brexit on this work, Professor Latham added: “The UK has played a leading role in research programmes and built up collaborations, some of which have been running for 20 years and from which we’re now seeing some great results. It’s going to be a key part of this process that that is not lost. We don’t want to walk away at this point, because going backwards would be a significant waste of money.”