Brighton and Brexit: Have Students Shot Themselves in the Foot?
It’s impossible to ignore the result of last Thursday’s EU Referendum and so you may be sick to death of reading about it. But with such wide-reaching consequences for the entire continent, the smaller details can often get lost amongst the shouting matches regarding immigration, the economy and sovereignty.
And with over 75% of under 25s having voted to remain in the EU, the result will be bitterly disappointing and equally unnerving given the potential ramifications for the future. So if you’re a student either already at university or thinking about going, how will a withdrawal from the European Union affect you?
It won’t come as any surprise to learn that EU funding is a key issue for universities. There have been numerous figures bandied about since the results; Uber Research found that universities such as Cambridge, UCL and Oxford have relied on EU research project funding of over £400m each over the last 10 years. And it’s not just the country’s best who get it – Times Higher Education report that Southampton Solent, one of the lowest ranked universities in the country, rely on a staggering 91.35% of their competitive research grant from the EU.
So it’s clear that some universities are “dangerously dependent” on EU funding for their research. But obviously those examples are extremes – would Sussex and Brighton really be that unlucky should the government actually activate Article 50?
Independent fact-checker Full Fact carried out a study which aimed to accurately place an average figure on university funding from the EU. They aimed to test the claim that universities in the UK get 15% extra funding from the EU on top of what is given to them by the government. This wasn’t quite right, but the findings did suggest a heavy reliance. Full Fact claim that around 16% of all research funding is provided by the EU, while at least 2.6% of UK universities’ total income would be lost following a departure from the European Union.
These are relatively frightening figures for university students, even if they are a minimum loss, and may explain why in a poll conducted at the University of Sussex, 82% of students and faculty chose to remain.
Aside from funding, unilateral action from the government could have severe ramifications for the capabilities of students both studying at UK universities from EU countries and vice versa. The beginning of the withdrawal process would alter the immigration status of EU students as well as the status of universities as members of Horizon 2020 or the Erasmus scheme, meaning that opportunities would be lost on both sides.
Why has this been allowed to happen?
These consequences will all have a profound effect should the government carry out the withdrawal which the public voted for. Students, angered by the result, have largely targeted the older generations for the possible decimation of their higher educational funding and opportunities. But it’s not as simple as that.
In terms of the vote itself, it is difficult to blame the over 65 demographic (as has been a popular reaction on social media). Despite an overwhelming proportion of remain voters, the actual turnout figures for students was low. Sky Data claim that the 18-24 turnout of those who went through their poll filters was around 36% – in comparison to the 83% figure for the over 65s.
This is something which the former University of Sussex’s Student Union President Abe Baldry had feared and predicted. He blames the lack of engagement on the “patronising and out of touch” campaigns as well as the lack of consideration which a Conservative government have placed in the younger generation, having made it clear that they are “not a priority”.
If what Baldry says is true, then there can be only one conclusion. A disengaged youth has been disastrous for the Remain campaign, for university opportunities and for EU funding – and they have only themselves to blame.