Two Prospect roundtables, in association with ACCA, tried to find out—and discuss the best route forwardby Prospect Team / November 23, 2018 / Leave a comment
It’s one of the UK’s flagship industries overseas—so why is it so neglected in the discussion around Brexit? At both the Labour and Conservative conferences, Prospect hosted two expert roundtables with the ACCA on an area that the media, and many politicians, have overlooked: higher education.
In Liverpool for Labour party conference, the conversation moved from funding grants to student visas to how universities could best benefit local communities—and help those local communities see that the presence of a higher education establishment can be a positive thing.
Tom McEwan, who worked as a school teacher near Liverpool before shifting his focus to policy research, is part of the Higher Education Commission via Policy Connect. For him, the most important question was ensuring continuity of visas and funding after the UK leaves the European Union next March.
Audience members and panellists alike told stories of European colleagues who had either already begun to investigate jobs on the continent, or were considering moving. For some, government reassurances about their future in the UK still left them uncertain. Others were motivated by a sense that the best funding allocations, particularly in STEM subjects, would no longer make it to the UK. Both were subjects that Paul Blomfield, Shadow Minister for Exiting the European Union, and University of Sussex Vice-Chancellor Professor Adam Tickell are committed to tackling.
While these issues have been much-discussed in higher education circles, the question of what relationship the cultural image of universities has to Brexit has been foregrounded less frequently. As the discussions in Liverpool continued, however, it was one that came up again and again.
Tickell, for instance, emphasised the fact that Sussex contributes vastly to the economy in and around Brighton, and that part of his job is ensuring that this good relationship endures by actively building links with the local community. One audience member—a lecturer at another university—was particularly keen on this point, stressing that the divide some towns experience between students and “locals” helps foster the sort of mutual resentment and suspicion that has become a common feature of many of the political discourses around Brexit.
ACCA CEO Helen Brand also emphasised the place of universities in changing the political discourse—especially overseas. She explained how the ACCA “Accelerate” university partnership programme worked with universities overseas…