Brexit impact on universities

Ministers meet higher education representatives.

The UK Government has failed to take account of the effects of Brexit on Scotland’s world-class universities and research institutes, Higher Education Minister Shirley-Anne Somerville has said.

At a round-table discussion with sector representatives, Ms Somerville criticised the UK Government’s “damaging rhetoric” on immigration, and said it was already having a negative impact on higher education.

Ms Somerville made clear the immigration status of EU nationals and access to research funding are key priorities for the Scottish Government.

The Minister said:

“We are determined to stand up for Scotland’s interests during the Brexit negotiations – in which the Scottish Government will continue to play a full part. This clearly includes the interests of our world-class universities and research institutes.

“The UK Government has singularly failed to consider the needs of Scotland’s higher education sector for a number of years – and there is no sign that this will change during the Brexit negotiations.

“The UK Government’s damaging rhetoric on immigration and refusal to clarify the post-Brexit status of EU nationals is extremely worrying and is already affecting the sector’s ability to recruit and retain international staff and students. Let me be clear: they are very much welcome in Scotland.

“Another concern is future access to EU research funding - particularly the Horizon 2020 programme which has provided more than €217 million to our universities. That’s why our aim is to keep Scotland in the single market, so we continue to be part of EU education and research programmes.”

University of Glasgow Principal and Chair of the Standing Council on Europe, Professor Anton Muscatelli, said:

“The ability to attract and retain the best global talent is what puts Scottish education among the very best in the world. Securing freedom of movement is therefore key to the future of the sector. I am very pleased this has been recognised by the Scottish Government as it set out its position on Brexit.”


Deputy First Minister John Swinney, Higher Education Minister Shirley-Anne Somerville and Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe Michael Russell met representatives from universities, research institutes and other organisations in the higher education sector.

Images will be available from the Scottish Government Flickr channel.

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