The Prime Minister has now written to the President of the European Council announcing formally the UK’s intention to withdraw from the European Union. There will be a process lasting two years during which the terms of withdrawal are to be agreed. The timescale can be extended only if there is a unanimous vote at the European Council.
The period while negotiations take place is likely to create uncertainty for many of us. A wide range of issues concerning our present relationship with the European Union are clearly going to be affected. I want to take this opportunity of setting out what the higher education sector – and this University – is doing on the issues that are likely to be of most concern for us.
Most important, from my perspective is for there to be clarity on the status of EU citizens living in the UK. I was pleased that the Prime Minister’s letter states that she hopes to strike an early agreement on the rights of citizens living in the United Kingdom and UK citizens living in the EU. The University employs about 800 staff who are able to live and work in the UK under EU Treaty rights. Many more of us – myself included – have family members who are also affected. A favourable resolution of this issue is the very top priority for Universities UK, the national organisation that I currently head. I, and my fellow Vice Chancellors, are making clear both to the government and to our local Members of Parliament the vital contribution that our international community contributes not only to our teaching, learning, research and campus experience, but also to the economy, culture and social fabric of our region.
The University has offered practical support to our staff which it will be keeping under review. Details can be found at:
The Brexit negotiations will of course need to reach conclusions in a wide range of other areas. There will be a short and long term perspective. There is a UUK briefing that sets out comprehensively our objectives and our actions to promote these objectives:
The University of Kent’s own responses include:
- Developing and supporting our European and other international partnerships to facilitate ongoing collaboration in research and education. Phillipe De Wilde and Anthony Manning are leading on this.
- Reaffirming our commitment to international student exchanges – Erasmus will be a major theme of Europe Day (9 May) this year.
- Active support for a simplified and improved visa regime for international staff and international students;
- Reviewing opportunities for our European Centres
As the UK’s European university, Kent values intellectual and cultural diversity. We are proud to be an outward-facing and international institution with more than 25% of our students and nearly 40% of academic and research staff coming from outside the UK. I am confident that, whatever happens within the wider political picture, the strength of our own European vocation will endure.
Professor Dame Julia Goodfellow, Vice-Chancellor