Professor Paul O’Prey’s address to Parliamentary Group: "You can’t have a world-class university system that isn’t open to the world – it’s a contradiction in terms."
Posted: 31 October 2016
The University of Roehampton's Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul O'Prey CBE was invited to address the All-Party Parliamentary University Group at the House of Lords earlier this month, on the impact of Brexit on Higher Education.
The main theme of Professor O'Prey's presentation was a call on the Government to take measures to ensure that the UK higher education system, which is regarded as among the very best in the world, is not undermined by the UK's decision to leave the European Union.
He was reminded of this during a recent trip to Madrid, "Students I spoke to in Spain were clear about why they want to come to the UK to study. They like what they hear about the more personal and intensive approach to teaching, and like the opportunity to study a wider range of more specialist degrees. And above all they know that universities in the UK are world-class – not just a few of them, but the whole sector.
"As to what makes a world-class university, one definition must surely be that it is a place where some of the best minds in the world come to study, to teach and to do research."
It is this reputation that enables the UK to attract some of the most talented students and academics from around the world: "This is I think the biggest threat that Brexit presents to our universities – the loss of ready access to an amazing pool of talent that brings so much to this country – in terms of teaching our students and working with British colleagues to produce research of a truly outstanding quality.
"Overseas students also make a massive contribution to the economy of many towns and cities across the country. Higher education is now one of this country's most important exports and perhaps uniquely in terms of export earnings, that money is distributed right around the country.
"EU students contribute an estimated £3.7bn to the British economy. Students from outside the EU bring in a further £7bn a year. This is the sort of trade that other countries can only dream about."
The Vice-Chancellor called for specific measures to ensure the continued free movement of students and academic staff after Brexit. He also argued that the Government should go further and follow the lead of the USA and others in removing all overseas students from net migration figures.
Professor O'Prey concluded his speech by reiterating the importance that higher education has in the UK, and the world. "One thing we have that the world admires and wants to engage with is a world class university system. High level skills and leading edge science and research should be at the heart of our post-Brexit strategy, because they are at the heart of the global economy.
"Universities have a major contribution to make – we just need to be allowed to get on and do it."
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