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Warwick vice-chancellor speaks about Brexit risks

The University of Warwick vice-chancellor has warned that there is a real risk of “nightmare scenarios” for UK universities due to the Brexit fallout materialising.

Before a draft was decided between the UK government and the European Union (EU), Stuart Croft told Times Higher Education that the number of possible “scenarios ranging from no-deal right the way through to possibly even some kind of Norway-style deal” for higher education “makes it almost impossible to plan.”

He said that it was “really depressing” that the worst-case outcomes for universities, such as the UK’s exit from the EU’s research funding programmes and the collaborations they offer, or the absence of any arrangements for UK-EU mobility for staff and students could not be ruled out.

“Those kinds of, almost, nightmare scenarios are really possible,” Professor Croft said.

Speaking to The Boar last month, Stuart Croft branded Brexit a “disaster” and said that the jobs that depend on research projects “would absolutely be at risk”.

He stated that “the fundamental problem is we are a European university. We have to stay part of Europe”.

The fundamental problem is we are a European university

– Stuart Croft

According to Times Higher Education, the former international relations professor warned that the outcomes of Brexit could have a devastating impact upon academics as they “have to be part of international networks – that’s how you do research”.

“It is not the case that a UK disassociated from international networks is going to be at the scientific forefront over the course of the next five to 50 years. It is simply not going to be the case,” Professor Croft commented.

Vice-chancellor Croft also stressed that the contribution of EU students at Warwick is “phenomenally high”.

“We have a series of programmes that, actually, we would have to question whether we’d continue with if significant numbers [of EU students] dropped off,” he said.

“That kind of scenario [suggesting that EU student income could rise even if numbers fall] is really short-sighted and not one we’d welcome at all.”

Croft added: “student mobility and joint student programmes – there are big opportunities there as well.”

If you’re going to solve the big problems of the world, you have to do that in an interdisciplinary way and at scale

– Stuart Croft

As well, Warwick has suggested that it hopes its network will be eligible to win funding, despite Brexit, as one of the European university networks first proposed by Emmanuel Macron.

To The Boar, Professor Croft said that the University is “working very hard to put together an application” for the network and is also “looking to get more universities involved in the network, from other parts of Europe as well”.

The French president has proposed at least 20 designated “European” universities, forming networks of four to six institutions, in a bid to shore up European identity among the young.

One proposal is for each Macron network to focus on a challenge, such as in energy or health.

“If you’re going to solve the big problems of the world, you have to do that in an interdisciplinary way and at scale. And Britain isn’t big enough…to be able to do those sorts of things on our own,” Professor Croft said.

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