The UK’s vote to leave the European Union is already causing problems for the country’s most prestigious business schools – and that’s before talks have even started.
New research by the Chartered Association of Business Schools (CABS) shows 7% of its 120 members have already lost EU staff members since the referendum. A further 27% predicted that a loss is likely, and one in eight institutions reported they had already had difficulty recruiting EU staff members. Another prominent concern was the loss of planned research funding.
“Generating an average income of £33 million each year, business schools are in effect multi-million pound businesses with tremendous export value and inward investment capabilities yet the Government is choosing to turn away our customers in pursuit of immigration targets which are flawed,” said Professor Simon Collinson, from Birmingham Business School and Chair of the Chartered Association of Business Schools.
“But this isn’t just about finances — students from both the EU and beyond positively influence the cultural diversity of our campuses and, once graduated, they help the UK to build soft power around the world,” he said.
Eight of the world’s 50 top business schools are in the UK, according to the Financial Times’ 2017 rankings, including Cambridge University’s Judge Business School, the current number five, and London Business School, the current number six.
But academics are worried that Brexit — with the uncertainty about the living and working rights of EU nationals it has caused, and the anti-immigration sentiment it has prompted — could be a brain drain on both staff and students, as well as jeopardise funding and research.
Business and administrative subjects have consistently been the most popular university courses at UK universities since 2007, with 67,655 students accepted on such courses in 2016 alone — about 12% of all acceptances — according to data from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS).
But UCAS also said that applicants for UK higher education courses fell by 5% among UK students and 7% among EU students this year. This could cause serious problems for the UK’s business schools: on average, a third of their income is generated by international students (both EU and non-EU), and another 47% from home students. As a result, a dip in student numbers could have serious consequences for their finances.
In comparison with business schools’ reliance on fees for almost 80% of their income, fees account for roughly half an institution’s income across UK universities in general. Meanwhile, about 15% of UK universities’ research funding comes from EU sources.
In 2015/16, the number of higher education staff members originating from EU countries (excluding the UK) was second only to the number of UK staff members, according to figures released by the Higher Education Statistics Agency.
There were more staff members from the EU than from the rest of the world combined (again excluding the UK). But there are signs that this is already beginning to change, and that working in higher education in the UK is becoming unattractive for foreign citizens.
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