Saturday, June 25, 2016

What does Brexit mean for education?

Education is a devolved issue in the EU, so the impact, in my view, will be negligible. Sure there will be adjustments, but that may, in some cases, be healthy.
1. Schools
Brexiters argued that there will be less pressure on schools, as there will be less EU migration in the future. This was one of the reasons so many voted for Brexit. They have a point as it is hard to see how there will be more pressure on schools because of Brexit. With other countries about to join, the number of children coming to the UK was set to increase year on year. EU teachers working here may be affected but that depends on what rules emerge and it is unlikely that qualified professionals will be much affected. Here’s some good news, Nicky Morgan was a fierce remain campaigner, so her tenure may be short - but who knows who we'll get next.
2. Private schools
Patrick Durham, speaking at the Festival of Education, thought that a number of private schools would have to close. Again, it’s hard to see why this would be the case. I think his case is exaggerated. There are about 5000 EU boarders in such schools and a cheaper pound will make their fees lower, attracting even more foreign boarders. There’s far more other nationalities, and let’s face it, this about making money. I’m not exactly crying in my soup over this one.
3. Language schools
This is big business but there’s little sign that the thirst for learning English will change. It may be a little more difficult to come here but a cheaper pound will more than compensate. For me, this will be business as usual.
4. Student fees
Curiously, EU students in Scotland will no longer be classed as home students, and will have to pay fees, allowing the Universities to recruit without a cap. The same is true in Northern Ireland and Wales, which also offer student support. However, there may be fewer EU students in the future as our Borders tighten. So there's a real downside here as well. English Universities will, of course, simply say that EU students will be charged the same as UK to students to avert a dive in 2017 numbers. Easy fix.
5. Research
Complex one this. As part of the £350 million per week we pay (Gross figure before rebate - I know) to the EU, a large portion comes back to us as University research money. We will, in effect, simply be able to pay this direct. It will be under out control, not the agenda of a diffuse set of 28 states. This is generally true of all sources of EU research funding. It’s was never free money in the first place. It means, in effect, that we will have total control.

This is a potential solution. There are already countries that are not members of the EU, that take part in EU research programmes, collaborate within consortia, even have access to European infrastructure. They have ‘Associated Country’ or ‘Third Country’ status, and include Norway, Israel and Switzerland. Time to consider htis as an option.
6. Research quality
One could argue that, free from the constraints of EU research criteria around collaborative participation, the quality of research will rise. I am in that camp. I have witnessed decades of wasted research in my field, in collaborative projects, with lots of meetings in nice European cities but little or no impact outcomes. EU quango have arisen with little of no real value. So we may see a reduction in wasted research, allowing us to focus on the stuff that matters.
7. Vocational learning
The one area that may suffer is vocational education. However, this may, like research money, simply be a case of money that we paid out coming back to us. Indeed, as we move towards a levy-funded apprenticeship model (April 2017), we will be funding this sensibly from employers. Nick Bowles did say that this may have to be delayed if we vote to leave and we did. However, these threats were ten-a-penny during the campaign. The EU was always skewed towards academic HE and not vocational. This has been catastrophic in southern Europe, with huge levels of youth and graduate unemployment. Vocational was always more of a national than international issue and as we rebalance the academic and vocation mixture, it is arguable that we will become more competitive in the long run.

Turns out to be not so bad after all. Win some, we lose some.

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