Inside Track - Hai-Sui Yu and Jane Madeley: Getting ready for Brexit

Our Deputy Vice-Chancellor: International and Chief Financial Officer share how we are preparing for Brexit.

Jane Madeley, Chief Financial Officer and Professor Hai-Sui Yu,
Deputy Vice-Chancellor: nternational

We would like to give an update on our preparations for Brexit, particularly in the case of a ‘no deal’ Brexit, given the Prime Minister’s oft repeated pledge to take us out of the EU at the end of month.

It is fair to say that for a while we have known that a ‘no deal’ exit is a real possibility. As a result, in addition to our ongoing planning for Brexit, over the last six months we have been working hard to assess the particular risks posed to the University in the case of a ‘no deal’ exit. We have been looking at this at an operational and a strategic level.

As a result, we have identified risks from a ‘no deal’ Brexit at a University-level, covering areas including research funding, student outward mobility, student recruitment, immigration, communications, and operational risks, such as the supply chain, data protection, intellectual property, insurance arrangements and travel.

We have been developing measures to try to mitigate the potential risks as much as we can, and these risks and mitigation plans have been submitted and reviewed by both Council, the University’s governing body, and UEG, the senior executive team.

At a national level, most recently, Universities UK (UUK), the national voice of universities, has conducted a national survey to assess how prepared the sector is for a ‘no-deal’ Brexit.

Contained within that survey was a very helpful check list of steps institutions can take. We have responded to that survey and it was good to know that we had already identified and were addressing the potential risks identified by UUK with appropriate actions.

At a more strategic level, for a couple of years now we have been re-balancing our student cohort mix, aware as we are that, sadly, a drop in EU student applications is likely as a result of Brexit.

Given the uncertainly around the Erasmus+ grant, post-Brexit, we have been actively developing alternative partnership models for student mobility and exchange, which will remain very important to us as an international university.

On research funding, while we have been continuing to work hard to secure and maximise our funding grants from the EU under Horizon 2020, the Russell Group, Universities UK and others have consistently raised the need for clarity around arrangements in the future. These groups have also been lobbying Government on the importance of continued association with this scheme. As with so many areas linked to Brexit, there is inevitably still uncertainty as to the final outcome of negotiations.

However, there have been some positive developments: the Government has given an assurance that existing research awards granted under Horizon 2020 will be honoured, and a route to progress applications submitted by the exit date has been agreed through UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

At a national level, Professor Sir Adrian Smith, Institute Director and Chief Executive of The Alan Turing Institute, has been leading an independent Government-commissioned review to advise on the design of future UK funding schemes for international collaboration, innovation and research, all of which will be essential in the event of any ‘no deal’ Brexit.

Closer to home our International Office and Research and Innovation Service are providing support and advice to help our research community identify alternative sources of income, where work could be at risk from a ‘no-deal’ Brexit.

Clearly, after Britain exits under whatever circumstances, we will have to do more in terms of developing bilateral research partnerships with leading institutions in the EU, as we have been doing for many years with other regions and countries. That will need increased focus and prioritisation, which we will provide, since it will be critical for us to remain a world-leading university.

For the last 18 months or so, as a university we have already been more proactive in developing strategic partnerships with countries in Europe, particularly Germany, the Netherlands and France, with whom we do a lot of joint research and who tend to be very active with research publications. For example, we have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany, so there is potential to develop a major partnership for research collaborations. We are also in the process of talking to two universities in France and the Netherlands about possible institutional partnerships. That’s something we will have to do more of going forward.

Operationally we are as well prepared for a ‘no deal’ exit as we could expect to be in the circumstances; strategically we have been doing that for quite a while now. We’ve been tracking progress and monitoring the shifting political scene through a Brexit operations group, which is by no means complacent, but we are relatively assured that we have got the essential scenarios covered. We are staying connected with the higher education sector and regional bodies outside the sector.

As for many other institutions, EU research funding and funding status for students wanting to study abroad as part of their degree remain the least certain areas for us. However, along with other Russell Group universities, we continue to lobby the government on both these fronts.

What can you do?

As a member of staff, there are a few things you can do to be prepared:

  • If you’re likely to be travelling on or around Brexit day, carry proof of employment with you as a contingency.
  • If you or a colleague has immigration queries or concerns, take advantage of the free information sessions and one-to-one meetings with immigration solicitors, Freeths, which the University has funded. There are sessions and one-to-one appointments from now until summer 2020. Book an immigration one-to-one or Brexit information session
  • Refer to the For Staff Brexit section for the latest confirmed information on a day-to-day basis and look out for any University-wide emails on the subject.
And if you have any questions or concerns about Brexit planning in your area, please share them with your line manager and, where needed, these can be flagged with the operations group.

Posted in: