Thank you for your open letter about Brexit (dated 10 September 2018) and your concerns about its impact on the University, our staff and students, and higher education.
Your letter raises a number of important points which I hope to address.
In the aftermath of the EU referendum vote and in the years since, we have been acutely aware of the impact of Brexit on staff. With 28% of academic staff from the EU or international countries we have been doing everything possible to support them.
For example, we responded to staff calls for information following the vote to leave, providing meetings and events, including offering support sessions led by legal experts for staff concerned about the implications of Brexit.
We established intranet pages and support networks for European staff and continue to update those as and when new information emerges, which has been well received.
We also put in place financial support for those members of staff who wished to make residency applications and we are currently developing policies and approaches to provide further financial support.
You also reference the need to be visible and take part in wider public debate.
I agree, and as Vice-Chancellor, I have sought to demonstrate the value of EU membership to our universities on political and public platforms both before and after the referendum.
I am a member of the Welsh Government’s European Advisory Group which provides advice on the challenges and opportunities arising from the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
I have also made the case for the importance of academic mobility and was one of four Russell Group Vice-Chancellors, representing all the nations in the UK, to sign a letter to Donald Tusk, President of the European Council on the subject.
The letter added support to his intention to make reciprocal rights for EU and UK nationals a priority and urged him to work to continue existing ties and protect working relationships to ensure continued research collaboration.
I will continue to make this case.
You rightly point out some of the challenges the UK’s exit from the EU will bring. We must protect collaborative networks and all the other benefits to research, teaching and student and staff exchange that the EU gives us.
We are committed to continuing to build and maintain our European partnerships and collaborations. Such collaborations – as well as access to funding – are crucial if the UK is to maintain its standing as a leader in science and technology and drive forward a culture of innovation.
I have and will continue to reinforce these messages at every possible opportunity.
What we must also do is seek the best advantage not only for the University, but for Wales, the UK and the world, as we exit the European Union. We must be open to seizing the opportunities that present themselves, as well as sustaining those we have built to date.
For instance, I do believe that we should consider the opportunities to create a new international outward mobility programme that will help support the wider internationalisation of education in Wales and the UK. I made this point in an interview with BBC Wales in February.
I am and have been happy to speak publicly on Brexit, its challenges and opportunities. Most recently, I spoke to Times Higher Education about the government’s forthcoming bill on post-Brexit immigration, and the opportunity this could afford.
You suggest the University has kept a low profile since the referendum. As an institution we have conveyed our concerns in ways that, though less immediately visible, are directly linked to the UK’s democratic processes.
Since the 2016 referendum, we have identified the challenges of Brexit in multiple Welsh Government, UK Government, House of Commons and National Assembly inquiries. Similar submissions have been made by groups representing the sector, including Universities Wales, Universities UK and the Russell Group.
Cardiff University has provided evidence—the majority publicly available—that clearly articulates the risks Brexit poses to the reputation, quality, sustainability and diversity of higher education.
The submissions have also stressed to our elected representatives the considerable benefits EU membership brings and made the case for such advantages to be retained after Brexit. I would, for example, encourage you to consult our most recent submission to the Assembly’s Children, Young People & Education Committee in July 2018.
You mention the final deal and fighting for an informed vote. It is a matter for individuals whether or not they choose to join the calls for a further vote. As Vice-Chancellor, I have been clear about the impact of Brexit and, crucially, that a ‘no deal’ scenario would have serious implications for us and the sector more widely.
Following the UK Government’s recent white paper, we are currently seeking further and firmer reassurances. We are urging them to make a firm commitment over the ability of EU staff and students to move freely, including sustained access to Erasmus+.
We are also seeking reassurances over sustaining or increasing regional development funds previously administered by the EU and for these to be handled at a devolved level.
The University has and will continue to consider the impact of Brexit in the context of its strategic direction and focus.
Please be reassured that Cardiff University is an international community that values staff who come to work here from around the world. We have around 600 staff from non-UK EU countries. This diversity fosters creativity and innovation and is an important part of our culture. This will not change.
Cardiff University will remain a tolerant, diverse, friendly and welcoming University to European staff and students in the post-Brexit world.