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Brexit and its potential consequences for cooperation and exchange in education and science

On a EU flag you can see the word 'Brexit' as if it fell out of the flag. The letters of
What effects could a BREXIT have on cooperation and exchange in education and science?
Copyright: Maik Meid (EU flag) & Nicolas Raymond (UK flag); derivative: N. Cohen CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

On January 31, 2020, Brexit has become a reality: After 3.5 years of negotiations and 47 years of membership, Great Britain has left the European Union. However, there is a transition period until the end of 2020 in which the country remains part of the EU internal market and the customs union. For the period thereafter, negotiations between the EU and Great Britain must be pursued.

Many British, but also international scientists and other people working in the education sector had spoken out against Brexit. They fear negative consequences for cooperation and exchange with the EU in the area of education and research. In this web dossier we offer you a small insight into the debate about the possible consequences of a Brexit on the education sector.

Voices from Science & Research

United Kingdom; Europe
"Scientists for Britain" is a platform of British scientists who think that a Brexit would have more negative effects on British science and research. The plattform was created during the debate about the UK referendum (23.06.16) on whether the UK should leave the European Union ("Brexit") or not. The platform proposes [...]

United Kingdom; Europe
"Scientists for Britain" is a platform of British scientists who think that a Brexit would have more positive effects on British science and research. The plattform was created in opposition to the "Scientists for EU" and during the debate about [...]

United Kingdom; Europe
Information page of the Royal Society, which is the United Kingdom's National Academy of Sciences. You will find a lot of information and statements on Brexit and Science in the UK / EU - for example questions on access to research funding or working in the EU and UK as a scientist. You will also find factsheets, like [...]

United Kingdom; Europe
Infos, FAQs and statements concerning Brexit and scientific / universitary issues - provided by Universities UK, a union of vice-chancellors or principals (executive heads) of universities in the UK. [Abstract: Editors of Education Worldwide]

United Kingdom; Europe
On its blog, the British Educational Research Association (BERA) provides some thoughts and views on the Brexit and its possible effects on education. Published so far (as of 27.06.16):

* BREXIT – initial thoughts on effects on our schools (27.06.16)

* First thoughts on Brexit [...]

United Kingdom; Europe
On the blog of the European Association for International Education (EAIE), author Laura Mesquita provides an overview over the debate and the arguments regarding the possible consequences of a Brexit (the UK leaving the EU) on education and research. She sees four main topics in the debate: Research funding, EU [...]

United Kingdom; Europe
The article describes the reaction of many British scientists to the votum for a Brexit (the UK leaving the EU) in the referendum of 23.06.16.
The article was published in the journal "Nature", a journal for natural sciences, on 24.06.16 by Daniel Cressey and Alison Abbott. It was translated and re-printed in the [...]

United Kingdom; Europe; Germany
On June, 2, 2016, British and German university leaders met in Berlin on the occasion of a jointly organised Rectors' Conference. Among others, they pointed out "how the EU helps academics to carry out cutting-edge research and enables students to study in other parts of the EU". They also warned against the [...]

United Kingdom; Europe
Article from the British daily newspaper The Guardian as of 27 June 2016, author: Peter Scott, professor at the Institute of Education and former vice-chancellor of Kingston University.
According to Scott, the "Brexit" (the UK leaving the EU) will have negative effects on science and research in the UK. [Abstract: [...]

Voices from the Media

United Kingdom; Europe
Please find a list of article from the e-journal University World News on the discussion about the Brexit, its possible effects on student exchange with the UK, on international cooperation of UK universities and more. University World News comprises a network of some five dozen education journalists based in more than [...]

United Kingdom; Europe; Germany
Radio broadcasts from the German radio Deutschlandradio on the issue of the Brexit and education. Available in German only. [Abstract: Editors of Education Worldwide]

United Kingdom; Europe
Article of the German radio Deutsche Welle, 25.06.2016, author: Fabian Schmidt.
Available in German only. [Abstract: Editors of Education Worldwide]

United Kingdom; Europe
BBC article as of 17 May 2016, author: Judith Burns
"UK universities could find it harder to recruit international students if the UK leaves the EU, suggests a survey." [Abstract: Editors of Education Worldwide]

United Kingdom; Europe
BBC article as of 26 February 2016, author: Pallab Ghosh.
Article about the possible negative effects a Brexit (the UK leaving the EU) could have on science and research in the UK. [Abstract: Editors of Education Worldwide]

United Kingdom; Europe
Several articles of the online magazine Times Higher Education (THE) on the EU Referendum in the UK about whether the UK should leave the EU or not ("Brexit"). THE is otherwise known for its THE World University Ranking. [Abstract: Editors of Education Worldwide]

United Kingdom; Europe
The portal Science|Business tries to "bring together research, industry and policy" and does this by providing articles, reports, networks and more. The author of the Brexit article linked here, Richard L. Hudson, has been working for the "Wall Street Journal" for 25 years, six of which as an editor-in-chief of the [...]

United Kingdom; Europe
Article from the British daily newspaper The Guardian as of 12 July 2016, author: Ian Sample, Science editor.
Article about the negative effects the Brexit (the UK leaving the EU) already seems to have on science and research in the UK, even before an official request to leave the EU has been handed in by the [...]

United Kingdom; Europe; Germany
Article by the online version of the German journal Der Spiegel, 24.06.16, authors: Armin Himmelrath and Silke Fokken. Available only in German.
English abstract [courtesy translation]: "So far, for German pupils and students the UK has been the number one country for exchange. One of the reasons for that [...]

Educational Policy

Nine photographs of European Education Ministers from whom a speech bubble emanates with the word 'Brexit'.
What do European Education Ministers say about the Brexit vote?
Copyright: Kaupo Kikkas – Riigikantselei; Evarist Bartolo; Ministry of Education, Slovak Republic; William Murphy; Robsqd; Presidenza della Repubblica Italiana; Benjamin Geminel – derivative work: Flappiefh; European People's Party; derivative: N. Cohen; Exact licence information

In the following table, we listed statements by European education ministers on the issue of the Brexit as far as we could find them. The list is not exhaustive and does also include European ministers outside the European Union (e.g. Switzerland).
The picture shows the following education ministers that were in office in June/July 2016 (from left to right):

top row: Jürgen Ligi (Estonia), Najat Vallaud-Belkacem (France), Evarist Bartolo (Malta)
middle row: Reinhold Mitterlehner (Austria), Richard Bruton (Ireland)
bottom row: Stefania Giannini (Italy), Jo Johnson (UK), Iñigo Méndez de Vigo (Spain), Peter Plavčan (Slovakia)

Country Education Minister Education Minister`s statement Translation Date Source Remarks
United Kingdom Jo Johnson,
Minister for Universities and Science
Statement from Jo Johnson, Minister of State for Universities and Science, on higher education and research following the EU referendum. 28.06.2016 official website of the government of the UK >> Jo Johnson was against the Brexit; He is the brother of Boris Johnson, prominent figure in the "Vote Leave" campaign and new Secretary of State for Foreign and Common­wealth Affairs in the ministry of new Prime Minister May (13 July 2016)

>> Jo Johnson keeps his position as a minister under the new May ministry

>> A further prominent Brexiteer and for a short time a candidate as a successor of David Cameron as a Prime Minister, was Michael Gove, former Secretary of State for Education (11.05.2010 - 15.07.2014)
United Kingdom Jo Johnson UK scientists already at risk of exclusion from EU projects in wake of Brexit vote – Science minister Jo Johnson raises concerns over potential discrimination against UK scientists before formal Brexit negotiations have even begun 30.06.2016 Article in "The Guardian"
France Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, Minister of National Education, Higher Education, and Research Toutes les déclarations avec le mot-clé "Brexit":

>> Régénérer l’Europe et la citoyenneté européenne – Discours de Strasbourg, 24 juin 2016

>> Profondément choquée par la mort de Jo Cox. Tout faire pour ramener de la sérénité dans le débat public.
All statements with the tag "Brexit"

>> Regenerate Europe and European Citizenship – Speech of Strasbourg, 24 June 2016

>> Profoundly shocked by the death of Jo Cox. Do everything to bring back serenity into the public debate. (17.06.16)
>> 24.06.2016

>> 17.06.2016
Personal website of education minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem
France Najat Vallaud-Belkacem Brexit : "c`est un séisme majeur" selon Najat Vallaud-Belkacem Brexit: "it`s a major earthquake," according to Najat Vallaud-Belkacem 24.06.2016 French TV channel itele
Italy Stefania Giannini, Minister of Education, Universities and Research Brexit: Nessun effetto nell`immediato per gli italiani in Gb. Giannini rassicura sull`Erasmus Brexit: `No immediate effect on Italians in the UK," reassures Giannini with regard to Erasmus 26.06.2016 Italian news agency ANSA, cited from a facebook post by Giannini that is not available anymore
Spain Íñigo Méndez de Vigo, Minister for Education, Culture, and Sports Méndez de Vigo cree que el brexit debe comenzar cuanto antes con cordialidad pero firmeza Méndez de Vigo thinks the Brexit should be put into action friendly but firmly, and as soon as possible 29.06.2016 Article from "Europa Press" (Madrid)
Spain Íñigo Méndez de Vigo Méndez de Vigo sobre el Reino Unido: “Si Europa ha crecido y progresado durante estos 50 años, lo va a seguir haciendo” Méndez de Vigo about the United Kingdom: "If Europe has grown and progressed during the last 50 years, it will continue doing so" 29.06.2016 Official website of the Spanish Ministry for Education
Austria Reinhold Mitterlehner, Minister of Science, Research and Economy Vizekanzler Wirtschaftsminister Reinhold Mitterlehner zum Ergebnis des BREXIT-Referendums: "Es ist ein trauriger Tag für Europa" Vice-Chancellor and Minister for Economy Reinhold Mitterlehner on the result of the BREXIT-Referendum: "It`s a sad day for Europe" 24.06.2016 Press release on the website of the Federal Ministry of Science, Research and Economics Reinhold Mitterlehner has also taken the position of Vice Chancellor since 01.09.2014
Ireland Richard Bruton, Minister for Education and Skills Richard Bruton says Ireland can cope after Brexit 27.06.2016 Article in "The Irish Times" Bruton has been the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation until 09.05.2016 when he changed for the Ministry for Education and Skills
Slovakia Peter Plavčan, Minister of Education, Science, Research and Sport Brexit naše školstvo až tak neovplyvní - reakcia ministra školstva na rozhodnutie Veľkej Británie vystúpiť z EÚ This is how the Brexit is going to influence our education – reaction of the Minister of Education to the decision of the UK to leave the EU 24.06.2016 Official notice on the website of the Slovakian Ministry of Education >> Slovakia holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union from July - December 2016

>> You can find a translation via Googletranslator which is not a 100% correct, but under­stand­able enough
Malta Evarist Bartolo, Minister for Education and Employment Brexit is vote against what is not functioning in EU – Minister Evarist Bartolo 24.06.2016 Article (English) and video (Maltese) in the e-journal "Independent Online" Malta will hold the EU Presidency from January – June 2017
Estonia Jürgen Ligi, Minister of Education and Research Jürgen Ligi: suur ja uhke Britannia jäi üleöö väiksemaks Jürgen Ligi: The great and proud British have become smaller overnight 24.06.2016 Article in the online magazine Delfi Estonia was meant to hold the EU presidency from Januar – June 2018, after the UK. But as the UK was excluded from the presidency after the Brexit vote, all countries following the UK period were advanced of 6 months.
Switzerland Mauro Dell’Ambrogio, State Secretary of Education, Research and Innovation "La Svizzera e la Brexit". La versione scoppiettante di Mauro "Mega" Dell`Ambrogio: "Se ci mettiamo a fare contingenti, ben più dei trattati con l’UE, saremo limitati e condizionati dalle imprese tipo Google" "Switzerland and the Brexit": The shrill opinion of Mauro "Mega" Dell`Ambrogio: "If we start negotiate quotas, or even better conclude agreements with the EU, we will be limited by and dependent on enterprises like Google." * 24.06.2016 An article / comment written by Dell`Ambrogio himself on the website of the Swiss TV station Libera TV >> The title of the article is probably meant in a ironic way as in the article Dell`Ambrogio states that he is against isola­tionism and for dialog and exchange in a world that is already globalised and internationalised.

>> Similar to Austria, Switzerland organises its educational and economical policy in one ministry: the superordinate entity to the State Secretariat is the Federal Department of Economy, Education and Research

* Italian translation into German: Simon Rettelbach; German translation into English: N. Cohen

Further information from the educational policy sector

United Kingdom; Europe
Overview provided by the UK Parliament on the results of the Education Committee's inquiry into the impact of exiting the European Union on higher education. The Committee’s inquiry was launched in September 2016, the results were published in December 2016. [Abstract: Editors of Education Worldwide]

United Kingdom; Europe
Science|Business Publishing informs about a call of members of the British Parliament for a "for contingency plan to protect UK life sciences in event of Brexit". The article compares the British situation after a possible Brexit to the situation in Switzerland after the "Swiss freedom of movement referendum". The result [...]

United Kingdom; Europe
Erasmus+ is a European Union (EU) student exchange programme. The British website for this programme posted a short notice to inform participants on the current situation after the socalled "Brexit". In a referendum on 23 June 2016, the British voted for the exit from the European Union. Many British but also European [...]

Further information (experts, general information)

United Kingdom; Europe; Germany
The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) provides a list of persons to contact for questions regarding studies abroad, student exchange with the UK, scientific cooperation etc. in case of a Brexit (the UK leaving the European Union). [Abstract: Editors of Education Worldwide]

United Kingdom; Germany
The website of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) provides ample information on academic exchange and cooperation with the United Kingdom. Information only available in German. [Abstract: Editors of Education Worldwide]

Germany; United Kingdom
[German only. For a pre-Brexit version of the website as of 2011, take a look at the Internet Archive]
Under the category "Bi- and Multilateral Cooperation", the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research [...]

United Kingdom
The website which is provided by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), provides a broad overview of research and education in Great Britain, including information on statistics, educational reports, policy or cooperation with Germany and other countries. Additionally, you will find basic country [...]

Last Update: 03.01.2023  -

News on Brexit & Education

  1. University World News for the keyword "BREXIT"
  2. The Number of EU students at British universities continues to decline (DLF 02.01.23) [courtesy translation]
  3. The challenge of replacing Erasmus+ with the Turing programme (Uni World News 07.01.21)
  4. UK to stay in Horizon Europe but drop out of Erasmus+ (Uni World News 31.12.20)
  5. What BREXIT could mean for students and researchers [German only, courtesy translation] (DLF 23.12.20)
  6. British Science: The consequences of Brexit for Research (DLF 26.01.20) [courtesy translation]
  7. Fears over future for Erasmus international student exchange scheme after Brexit (The Independent 09.01.20)
  8. FAQ: How does a no-deal Brexit affect education and research in Germany? Web-Dossier of Ministry of German Education (BMBF 26.09.19) [courtesy translation]
  9. Universities ‘very worried’ about impact of no-deal Brexit (Uni World News 15.09.19)
  10. German and Scottish universities sign cooperation agreement - To maintain scientific cooperation in times of Brexit (DLF 04.09.19) [courtesy translation]
  11. PM [Boris Johnson] sets out vision to cement UK as a science superpower (PM Gov UK 08.08.19)
  12. UK-EU mobility will continue under Erasmus+ in the event of no-deal Brexit (Europ. Parliament 13.03.19)
  13. Letter to the Home Secretary highlighting the importance of international mobility for research and innovation (UK National Academies 16.11.18)
  14. Brexit, Irish Higher Education and research: challenges and opportunities (University Observer 29.11.18)
  15. The consequences of Brexit: When researchers can't afford Oxford anymore (SPON 09.08.18) [courtesy translation]
  16. Science and Brexit: "Great Britain tries to revalue bilateral relations" (DLF 09.06.17) [courtesy translation]
  17. Radio programme "Campus & Career" on the issue of Brexit (01.04.17) [courtesy translation]
  1. Driving up TNE [transnational education] is a key UK strategy post-Brexit (University World News 24.03.17)
  1. New student mobility figures show Erasmus Brexit risk (University World News 03.03.17)
  1. Student visas targeted in drive to cut migrant numbers (University World News 04.10.16)
  1. Brexit and Education: Interviews Prof. Mario Nivelli & Prof. Susan Robertson (02.09.2016)
  1. Brexit and academia: German-British nervousness (Sept 2016)

Further reading

  1. Keeping up with the Germans? A comparison of student funding, internationalisation and research in UK and German universities.


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