An outgoing vice-chancellor of a top Russell Group University has revealed he is ‘uneasy’ about the near unified stance British universities took in opposing Brexit.
Writing in The Telegraph, Sir David Greenaway, who is also the chair of the Russell Group, an association made up of the UK’s top twenty universities, has said universities should stop criticising the Brexit decision. Describing the referendum vote as a ‘catalyst’ for the country’s higher education sector, Greenaway argues that Britain being outside the European Union is an opportunity for universities to exceed expectations, implying that the EU has been a restraint on such possibilities.
A number of universities warned in the run up to the referendum in June this year, that EU students would be discouraged from applying to British universities.
Universities had also warned that working collaboratively with EU institutions would become more onerous, with the introduction of tighter border controls.
Commenting on the fact that 90 percent of the higher education sector in the UK backed Remain, Sir David said:
Compared with the Leave campaign’s winning margin of only 4 per cent, it’s a position of relative unity that would make many people blush. Yet it fills me with a slight unease.
“Why? Because it suggests either the academic world knows something the electorate doesn’t or we’re hopelessly out of touch.
“While we deal with this sense of loss and disconnect there’s a risk that the opportunities presented by Brexit are overshadowed.
Speaking on Nottingham’s position compared to its London and Oxbridge counterparts, Greenaway acknowledged its relatively smaller size but said this was not a barrier to innovation for them, or any other UK university, saying:
“You may think Nottingham too small to think like this, compared with the Londons and Manchesters of this world.
“In fact, we’re the ninth largest city in the fifth biggest economy in the world. Nottingham University has partnerships with Rolls-Royce, Boots, and GSK [GlaxoSmithKline, a pharmaceutical company] and we were the first foreign university to set up a campus in China.”
He added: “The spirit of endeavour that took us there was the same spirit that took me from a Glasgow tenement as a child to Vice Chancellor of this university and I’m keen to rediscover that sense of breaking free and exceeding expectations all over again. We all can.
“Brexit might be the catalyst we all need.”