Brexit threatens to harm the UK’s standing as a hub for elite universities, and Friday’s referendum result has placed the nation’s entire higher education sector into a period of uncertainty.
Andrew Likierman, dean of London Business School, says: “Speaking personally, I am concerned at the implications of the result for the UK.”
The UK is home to 14 of Europe’s top-ranked business schools by the FT.
UK schools rely on their global standing to attract talent. But there are growing fears that the UK’s anti-EU sentiment will affect universities’ ability to recruit applicants.
The proportion of British students in UK MBA programs has fallen from 58% in 2007-2008 to just 49% today, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency.
Brexit could not only turn potential students sour on the UK’s schools, but could also make it more difficult for schools to recruit faculty. For instance, 60% of Oxford University’s Saïd Business School professors are from outside the UK. Saïd did not respond to a request for comment.
Ian Looker, education lead partner at PwC, says: “Not only is the research funding provided by the EU now at threat, but also the potential tighter controls over EU staff and students coming to the UK could well present UK universities as less attractive options to work and study.”
LBS’ Andrew says: “For higher education as a whole, and London Business School in particular, this should not give the signal that the UK has turned inwards. We are a global school and I believe that the UK will remain an outstandingly attractive place to study.”
Brexit could also dampen MBA job prospects. PwC estimates that up to 100,000 jobs could be lost in the City as a result of the UK leaving the EU. A “relatively high proportion of Imperial College MBAs end up working in the City”, the London-based business school told BusinessBecause last year. The City employs 360,000 and there are 1.1 million working in financial services across the UK.
Simon Hunt, UK head of banking and capital markets at PwC, says: “Overseas banks currently using the UK as a base for accessing the EU market and employing an estimated 115,000 staff are likely to be looking closely at their operations in the UK in the context of the leave vote.”
Moody’s, the rating agency, has also warned on the consulting and wider professional services industry.
Tudor Aw, head of technology sector at KPMG UK, says the result is disappointing for the tech industry. But he adds: “My view is that the core attributes that make the UK tech sector so strong and attractive remain in place, including an amazing talent base.”
Marieke Flament, an LBS MBA and managing director for Europe at fintech start-up Circle, says: “It will be catastrophic for the UK economy. Fintech has been so successful for London because companies have been attracted by access to talent.”
Jurga McCluskey, head of immigration at Deloitte UK, warned that those seeking to enter the UK in future may find themselves having to qualify under new immigration rules. The UK government has already been criticized by business schools for clamping down on visas for overseas students.
“The UK’s decision to leave the EU will inevitably cause a period of great uncertainty around immigration policy for businesses and individuals,” she says.
Brexit could also affect UK business schools’ partnerships with other European schools. The London School of Economics, for example, runs a joint Executive MBA program with HEC Paris of France.
For British universities, it is not currently known what impact Brexit will have on UK policy on higher education tuition fees, loans and bursaries.
“We recognize that there is a great deal of uncertainty around the decision to leave the European Union,” said Leszek Borysiewicz, vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge, home to the Judge Business School.