THOUGH a hard Brexit will make life difficult for them, Scotland’s 19 universities and higher education establishments will continue to make a positive case for cooperation and collaboration with EU institutions.
A meeting of the principals of all of Scotland’s 19 higher education institutions last week considered all the issues caused by Brexit and drew up a long list of demands to be put to the Scottish and UK Governments.
The National has had exclusive access to that list. Following the meeting, Universities Scotland (US), the umbrella group that represents the 19, issued what is effectively a manifesto. US stated: “We took a decision in 2015 that it was not for us to campaign for a particular outcome in the referendum on membership of the EU. We said we would work with whatever outcome was chosen by the electorate.
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“Now we have that decision, our role lies in getting policy makers to commit to secure a set of policy and funding outcomes that will enable universities to continue to be successful. That is our focus as the Scottish and UK Government’s approach Brexit negotiations.”
The document continued: “We want Scotland to be as open as possible to continued close relationships with our European neighbours, as well as being open to the wider world.
“We support the exploration of differentiated arrangements for Scotland’s relationship with the EU, as a safeguard in case the UK Government does not negotiate an arrangement with the EU that protects our relationships with our European neighbours.”
On students and staff, US stated: “We want EU students to be able to come to Scotland without visa restrictions. We seek the earliest possible assurance that EU students commencing their studies pre-Brexit will have their fees-free status protected post-Brexit.
“Universities must continue to be funded to teach these students for as long as their courses last. We would support a funded policy that enabled EU students to be treated more favourably than other international students for fees purposes.
“This will help to maintain our relationships with our closest neighbours and will contribute to the diversity of subjects we can offer.
“We want to explore with the Scottish Government what different models of association between Scotland and the EU could mean for the fees status of EU students, for instance if Scotland became part of the European Economic Area.
“Transitional arrangements are important to support the effective management of EU undergraduate students post-Brexit, including management of the impact on particular subject areas if EU student numbers declined.
“We seek urgent confirmation of the right of EU staff and their dependents who are in Scotland before Brexit to live and work in the UK and to access public services.
“We need to be able to attract high-talent EU staff to Scottish universities post-Brexit. This means that we need a visa regime that supports the attraction of talent from the EU, ensuring that EU staff and their dependents are able to live, work and access public services.”
On a final point, US stated: “We seek a post-Brexit regulatory framework that sustains close relations with our EU neighbours, for instance through continued mutual recognition of professional qualifications, a common set of rules for EU research collaboration, and EU-wide protection of intellectual property.”
Some may see it as a hopeful wish list in the face of a Tory Government committed to a hard Brexit, but Scotland’s university and higher education system is utterly crucial to the future success of this country and surely no one can deny what the 19 want is reasonable.