Brexit Fears

Some British universities report that faculty job candidates don't want to commit until after the vote on the European Union.

May 27, 2016

Many academics are not accepting offers for British university jobs until they know the result of next month’s European Union referendum, the president of Universities UK has warned.

Julia Goodfellow, vice chancellor of the University of Kent, said her institution had been told by several successful applicants from continental Europe that they wanted to know that the U.K. would remain in the E.U. before taking up a post.

“We offered one person a job, but he said he wanted to wait until after the referendum before making a decision on accepting,” said Goodfellow in an interview with Times Higher Education.

Young scientists and other early-career academics from E.U. countries had been particularly affected by the uncertainty around the referendum, as they were making decisions about where their careers and families would be based in the medium term, Goodfellow explained.

These highly skilled academics would face years of uncertainty while negotiations over their status in Britain took place if the country voted to leave the E.U., she said.

“Some postdocs and researchers from European research organizations will not come because this is a very critical time in their career,” said Goodfellow, suggesting that they would opt for countries where their long-term future was more assured.

Her own university would be particularly affected by a Brexit vote, as some 22 percent of its academic staff are non-British, she said.

In a keynote speech at the annual conference of Universities Human Resources, which was held in Brighton this month, Goodfellow said universities have been especially quick to support Universities UK’s Universities for Europe campaign.

Referring to an association letter extolling the benefits of the E.U. to academe, Goodfellow told an audience, “One hundred and three vice chancellors agreed to sign the letter within three hours of it going out.”

She explained that universities are now ramping up their efforts to ensure that students are registered to vote by June 7, ahead of the June 23 referendum. “Lots of them are now just finishing exams and only just realizing they need to register to vote.”

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