It almost seems a little late in the game for students to now be collectively organising to demand a say on the Brexit process, with it being less than a year before the UK leaves the EU. Negotiations are, if not at an advanced stage, well underway with not much time until the government needs to lay out its concrete approach.
However, with just 10 months until the UK starts its route to departure, nearly one million students have co-signed a letter demanding a “people’s vote” on the outcome of Brexit negotiations. 60 Student Unions across the UK – representing 980,000 young people in colleges and universities – have signed the letter which demands a referendum on the final deal negotiated by Britain and the EU.
The idea is that if the deal the Prime Minister agrees with the EU is a damaging one then students and the wider population can vote to reject it and, presumably, stay in the EU should they wish to.
It’s not surprising that students are demanding a vote as the UK’s relationship with Europe is crucial to much of their funding and the international student community but it is surprising that the move has come so late in the process.
In an article for the Guardian, Toby Helm and Mason Boycott-Owen highlighted the case of Kent University which, according to the authors, “calls itself ‘the UK’s European university’. It has huge numbers of European students and lecturers and boasts its own outposts or ‘study centres’ in Athens, Brussels, Rome and Paris. It is fiercely proud of its European links. The 28 flags of the EU nations fly above its buildings.”
When talking to students they point out that a vast majority of young people and students voted to stay within the EU, preferring access to visa-free travel and the opportunity to work and study abroad easily and cheaply.
In an apparent response to the angst of young Brits, according to dw.com, the EU’s executive branch has earmarked €12 million ($14.7 million) to provide between 20,000 to 30,000 young Europeans turning 18 this year with a free Interrail pass, which allows the user to travel across Europe on almost any train.
Students interviewed as part of the Guardian’s article have also said that we can expect huge protests this summer from students and that they are expected to be bigger and better organised than the tuition fee protests of 2010.
For student landlords, it would be understandable to add their voices to a movement that seeks to make it as easy as possible for EU students to come and study in the UK, given that they make up a sizeable proportion of the student population in the UK.
The UK currently ranks highly amongst the desired destinations of European students but that could be at risk if the UK opts for a so-called “hard Brexit” which may make it more difficult for EU citizens to study here without visas.
Another aspect of the attraction of studying here is the possibility to live and work past graduation which adds an enormous amount to the UK economy through skilled labour.
In order for the UK student property market to flourish, as it has done in recent years, it’s inconceivable to imagine it reaching its full potential without the government taking a proactive and friendly approach to attracting EU talent.