June 22nd, 2016
Britain will lose its place as a “global leader in science and innovation” if voters turn their back on the European Union in this week’s referendum, around 100 universities warn today. In a letter to The Independent the vice chancellors of almost every major higher education institution in the country say they are “gravely concerned” about the impact of Brexit. The signatories include the heads of Oxford, Cambridge, Durham, Bristol and all of the UK universities in top 50 world rankings. The letter shows the depths of concern among academics about the risks of pulling out of the EU. They point out that every year, universities generate over £73 billion for the UK economy – £3.7bn of which is generated by students from EU countries alone.
In the letter they write “EU membership supports British universities to attract the brightest and best minds from across Europe, enhancing university research and teaching and contributing to economic growth, voluntarily cutting ourselves out of the world’s largest economic bloc would undermine our position as a global leader in science and innovation, impoverish our campuses and limit opportunities for British people.”
The Vice Chancellors go on to warn that leaving Europe would “create a difficult environment for the long-term investment in higher education and research” that is necessary for the UK to maintain its position as a skilled and a globally competitive knowledge economy. “For us it is crystal clear that our outstanding universities – and our students – are stronger in Europe.” The letter comes as a new poll, using methodology developed after the 2015 general election, shows that the result of the referendum is within the margin of error. The survey, conducted by the research centre NatCen, shows support for remaining in the EU at 53 per cent while 47 per cent back leaving. The survey was conducted as an experimental test of a new approach to polling that was recommended by the Inquiry into the performance of the opinion polls in last year’s general election.
The student industry in the UK generates an enormous amount of income and there will be plenty who will be keen on keeping that revenue stream active. Student industries fuel multi million pound markets and currently attract a lot of investment in to the UK both internally and from abroad. As student numbers are growing and top institutions are flourishing many appear to be worried about the possible impact of Britain leaving the EU. One source of investment that has exploded in popularity recently is the student accommodation sector as low capital is required initially for purchases. This coupled with very high levels of continuous tenancy and strong yields have meant that construction has seen a sharp rise recently.
With leaders from the top universities now vocally supporting a remain vote it wouldn’t be surprising to see high levels of support from students for staying inside the EU, although polls have showed this for some time. Property is seen as a fairly strong investment as markets face uncertainty and turmoil, and would more than likely see a large boost regardless of the outcome of the vote. The message is clear though, universities support remain.