Universities in the northeast of England have said they fear leaving the EU could cause setbacks unless the government ensures EU students and academics can continue coming to the UK.
The heads of Newcastle and Sunderland universities warned MPs that the UK was giving the impression it didn’t want foreign students or staff coming here.
Shirley Atkinson, vice-chancellor of the University of Sunderland, said: “There is a wider issue about the reputation of British universities in the world now as a result of the Brexit vote.”
Their comments were highlighted by the House of Commons Education Committee, which has issued a report urging the government to provide guarantees to university staff from the EU and design a new immigration system that would meet the needs of higher education.
Atkinson told MPs: “Unfortunately, it is being played back in some quarters as Britain not being open and prepared to share, not interested in having mobility of students or staff, and the longer-term implications of that kind of reputational damage needs to be picked up.”
Professor Tony Stevenson, deputy vice-chancellor of Newcastle University, added: “If you look at the immigration policy … and the perception in markets out there that are receiving all of that, they do not see Britain at the moment as a welcoming place, despite the rhetoric from government.”
Stevenson highlighted the importance of ensuring the UK remains part of the Erasmus+ programme, which helps pay for EU students to study in other EU countries.
He warned that the UK would lose influence over Horizon 2020, as it would likely become an associate member rather than a full member.