Oxford struggles to retain academics after Brexit vote

Chancellor Chris Patten said that universities must stand up for themselves

Pro-EU Brexit protest. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The number of Oxford academics from the European Union decreased in the year following Brexit, according to new Higher Education Standards Agency (Hesa) figures.

Only the University of Kent (70) lost more EU academics than Oxford (55) in 2016-17.
However, the University’s own figures suggest that the decline was much smaller. A spokesperson told Cherwell that the total number of EU academics has declined by only twelve since last year’s referendum.

The news comes as Oxford chancellor Chris Patten said that the country is “obsessed with this astonishing act of self-harm.”

Hesa’s figures claim that Oxford lost 3.1% of its EU academics in the 2016-17 academic year, the third-biggest decline of any university, behind the University of Birmingham (4.5%) and the University of Kent (15.4%).

A University spokesperson told Cherwell: “Oxford is an international University.

“Since the referendum we have made it clear we will continue to be a welcoming home for staff and students from the EU. The status of colleagues from other parts of the EU has been a major concern for the University and we have called for clear commitments on this issue to reassure staff and students who are already here or hoping to join us.

“The University will continue to call for a free flow of academic talent to and from the EU in the final Brexit settlement.”

Lord Patten told Cherwell on Wednesday that “Oxford is part of the serious collateral damage that is done to this country. We get more research funding from Europe than any other university in Europe,” he said.

“What happens to that academic collaboration, that flow of funds, upon which we do very well is important in the future. I think we’ll manage to get around it because we’re so important to Europe, because it’s so important to us in Britain. I think it’s a point that the Chancellor of the Exchequer understands perfectly well.”

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Lord Patten said that the country is “obsessed with this astonishing act of self-harm.”

“How can you, if you’re in another European country, separate yourself in any way from Life Sciences at Oxford, which is the best in the world? Unless the government sees sense, we are going to lose people.”

In April 2016, the University issued a statement in support of the UK’s membership of the European Union.

The statement read: “The mobility that EU membership affords, which enables staff and students from across the EU to come to Oxford, and Oxford staff and students to work and study in Europe, is central to our strategic plan.”

Top universities “have to develop even more enthusiastically than [they] have in the past, our relationship with other universities in Europe and beyond” Lord Patten said.

“We also have to be very assertive in speaking up for ourselves as an important part of liberal democracy. We have to stand up for things which should really be hallmarks of a university, like freedom of speech and freedom of research.”

The latest statistics come after it was announced last week that one of Oxford “brightest” new recruits was forced to leave her post and return to China, after the Home Office declined a visa for her 22-month-old baby.

Fengying Liu, a postdoctoral researcher in pathology, was recruited to Oxford’s Sir William Dunn School of Pathology in October last year after completing her PhD in Germany, where she lived with her husband and child.

On being offered the Oxford position, she moved to the UK without her husband and daughter, having made the decision to apply for their visas separately to make the costs more manageable.

However, a technicality in UK immigration law that requires parents to seek visas together with their children meant that the separate application for Dr Liu’s baby was refused.

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Earlier this month, vice chancellor Louise Richardson condemned current government Brexit proposals, warning that the UK is set to miss out on billions of EU research funding.

The “pay-as-you-go” proposals risk an “enormous loss” to research, she said. warning that the UK could lose its reputation in the scientific community if it cut ties with the EU.

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