UK universities have been warned that European universities are on a mission to recruit their top researchers, as concerns grow amongst European academics over their post-Brexit rights. Michael Arthur, the head of University College London, has stated that a startling 95% of UCL’s senior researchers from other EU countries have been targeted by continental institutions. At present, almost one-third of UCL’s teachers are citizens of other EU countries. Universities across the UK argue that the government has not done enough to reassure the 34,000 EU academics that their abilities to continue living and working in the UK will be protected.
Orsini expresses concern over the United Kingdom’s future after leaving the European Union. She worries that the country may erect further barriers to foreign students, and universities may lose their access to European research funds – crucial sources that have always provided more than what the country has given. Despite being married to a Briton for nearly two decades, Orsini never had the desire to possess a UK passport, content with her Italian one and the benefits of being an EU citizen. Only after seeing more clarity emerge will she consider applying for permanent residence, declining interest in becoming a British citizen under the current circumstances.
Several European lecturers and academics are apprehensive regarding their qualification for UK residency. For example, Johannes Angermuller, a professor of discourse at Warwick University originally from Germany, points out that a passport is the sole guarantee for permanent residency. However, the requirement to remain in the country for five years and no more than 450 days abroad creates issues when the job is international. Angermuller divides his time between France and Warwick for a project and travels frequently for conferences, making it impossible to stay within those limits. Although he does not anticipate a policy of deporting EU citizens, he worries about the degree of harshness in the rules and the resulting obstacles to their quality of life.
Angermuller’s research team consists of 15 people, most of whom are Europeans, that fear for their future in the UK. Even with the assurance of a visa, his Iranian researcher had to spend £10,000, and an administrative error two days before the deadline nearly deported him. Thus, Angermuller recognizes the importance of having guarantees, and worries that failure to obtain a passport will make it impossible for him to stay in the country. Moreover, he anticipates losing half of his research funding, and he cannot apply for global research projects that require him to lead them. As 95% of the people in his department are international students, he fears that downsizing may be necessary due to the declining overseas applications. Meanwhile, colleagues who voted for Brexit ended up drifting apart, creating a peculiar rift in personal relationships.
Angermuller concludes that the Brexit vote has altered feelings throughout the country with regard to trust in its institutions and people. He expresses grave concerns about potential positive changes that Brexit may bring, and finds it quite frightening.