After a turbulent summer of politics, Ellie Chesshire reflects on what could be in store for British students.
As we approach the start of a new academic year it seems as good a time as any to look back at the events of the long summer. In the space of three months a lot has changed for British politics, from the turbulent general election to the beginning of Brexit negotiations. So, looking forward, what is in store for British students?
The general election on the 8th June took place just as universities begin to finish for the year. It appears that the results of the EU referendum in 2016 were a wakeup call for young people all across the country. It has been estimated that only 36% of 18-24 year olds turned out in 2016. In contrast around 72% voted in June, with 64% of full time students voting for Labour. This undoubtedly helped push Britain towards a hung parliament, the situation that we now find ourselves in.
While the full implications of Brexit will not be known until the negotiating window closes in 2019, there are already many concerns over how it will affect the student community.
The general election showed the gravity of the student voice and also showed that we are not afraid to use it. This voice came just in time as negotiations on a deal for the UK to leave the EU started just a few days later. While the full implications of Brexit will not be known until the negotiating window closes in 2019, there are already many concerns over how it will affect the student community. In August the Russell Group released a list of 10 demands which they say Theresa May must meet in order to ensure that higher education is not damaged. Currently, the government is providing very little clarity on the situation which the Russel Group says is “causing considerable concern for EU nationals at our universities and impacting on our ability to recruit talented staff from the EU.”
Glasgow has 15,000 foreign students, of whom 6,400 are EU nationals as are 1,230 staff. Puts the #Brexit negotiations into perspective.
— Cllr Rhiannon Spear (@RhiannonV) May 30, 2017
Having spoken to friends and fellow students about the repercussions of Brexit, the attitude seems pretty pessimistic. Not only are we looking at losing international students and lecturers, but many banks and big businesses are also considering moving their work to other European cities. One Bristol student argued that this will make internships and jobs harder to get, particularly for people graduating in the next few years. This is a frustrating situation for students to be in, particularly when around 70% of young people who did vote, voted to stay. The negative hit the economy will take from Brexit is going to mean that universities will lose funding, which in turn could see tuition fees rises even further. Jeremy Corbyn’s promises to scrap tuition fees in the recent general election have proven that any further increase in fees will not sit well with the student body.
The negative hit the economy will take from Brexit is going to mean that universities will lose funding, which in turn could see tuition fees rises even further.
While the full implications of Brexit will not be known for at least the next few years, this summer of politics has already highlighted several key themes. Negotiations only started in June and yet already the Russell Group body is concerned about Theresa May’s Brexit and the implications it will have on higher education. Speaking to students themselves there is a lot of skepticism surrounding Brexit which only seems to have been heightened since negotiations got under way. The general election has emphasized just how divided the country is and the affects this divide could have in the coming years.
Whatever happens over the next couple of years, universities and the student body are definitely going to see some fundamental changes.
What are your thoughts on Brexit negotiations? Let us know.