“Universities for Europe” is a new campaign established in summer 2015 uniting the sympathizers of the European Union among the Higher Education sector in the United Kingdom.
In his speech in 2013, the Prime Minister David Cameron talked about the British membership in the European Union as about a “means to an end” and promised the British public an in/out referendum of the European Union, a chance to decide their future. It is now certain that by the end of 2017, the United Kingdom is going to have a referendum, where the voters decide whether or not they want to be a part of the European Union.
Universities feel strongly about staying and 133 universities across the United Kingdom already joined the campaign and believe that the United Kingdom is better off remaining a member of the European Union. The main claims of the campaigns against a British exist, a Brexit, are that the UK universities benefit from the free movement of students which later creates more diverse jobs, enables students and institutions to apply for the EU research funding and ensures the overall prosperity of the Higher Education sector including all its participants.
This is not the first referendum that the United Kingdom faces, people voted before in a so called “Common Market” referendum in 1975; only months after the UK joined the EU. Yet, this time the universities are expressing their opinions loudly. The president of the organization “Universities for Europe”, Julia Goodfellow, believes that the benefits for the Higher Education of staying in the EU should be unspoken; they should be verbalized and heard by the wide public. The official campaign website thus includes the latest campaign news, articles and updates about happenings.
Some would say that is was high time universities took a clear stand towards the Brexit, yet the decision was heavily criticized by others. According to the critics, the action of the “Universities for Europe” campaign paradoxically does not nourish enough of healthy conversation and open debate among the public. Universities should be the places for debate and dispute and hence taking such definite stand goes against this very idea.
In case the British public votes for the Brexit, the leaving the EU would mean that the international collaboration in research, funding and exchange of students might be endangered or at least unclear for the years to come. Furthermore, the EU university students would probably face the same high tuition fees as the overseas students. Thusly, the mobility within the academic sector among the UK and EU students would decrease significantly.
Based on the proposal from the Conservative party the question that the voters will answer by the end of 2017 is most likely going to be “Do you think that the United Kingdom should remain a member of the European Union”. Though the percent of “No-voters” has been growing in the past few months, it is still two more years till the referendum takes place in the UK. For now only time will show whether the campaign “Universities for Europe” will have any impact on the referendum results.