FEATURES » Brexit and likely impact on the Italian academic community in the UK

Brexit and likely impact on the Italian academic community in the UK

The Embassy of Italy in the United Kingdom conducted a survey among the Italian academic community in the UK to understand if there are already explicit consequences of Brexit. Interesting data emerged: 82% of Italian academics in the UK, participating in the survey, are willing to relocate in another EU country, and many are concerned about discriminations in grant concessions to EU researchers.

Italians are the second largest foreign academic community in the UK.  Between 2014/15 and 2015/16 academic years, there was a significant increase in the number of Italians in UK universities. Since Brexit was announced the survey suggests a trend among some Italian academics to start looking for new opportunities outside of the UK. There are almost 6,000 Italians working in UK universities, the survey analyses the responses of 632 of them. Of these, 82% (i.e. 518) are considering to leave the UK, largely as a consequence of Brexit. 

In the academic year 2014/2015, according to the Higher Education Statistic Agency (HESA) more than 28% of the academic staff in the UK were non-UK nationals; 16% of the total were EU nationals. The Italian academic community in the UK represented the second largest foreign scientific community. In addition, there are 6749 Italian PhD and master’s students attending UK higher education institutions.

London hosts the largest number of Italian academics, with a total of 2,042 members (35% of the total Italian academic community). After London are Oxford (334 members), Cambridge (269).

According to the survey, the vast majority of the academics involved in the research would move to another EU country (57%). A significant proportion of researchers would like to go back to Italy (29%). Another interesting aspect is that the more advanced respondents are in their career, the more likely they prefer moving back to Italy rather than moving to another EU country.

The major negative consequences that have been reported in the answers to the questioner were: Decreasing numbers of EU students, PhD applications from EU students, PhD offers to EU students, and Erasmus applications; and a general sense of insecurity, discontent and demoralisation. Furthermore, only 26% of the respondents were confident that they and their colleagues had not been victims of discrimination in EU funding. The vast majority (61%) did not know whether they have experienced or heard of discrimination whilst 12% had direct experience of discrimination.

Some reported that: “We have been formally warned not to give PhD scholarships to EU students. Informally, many colleagues have been advised not to apply for EU grants as ERC grant since it is very unlikely that those grants will be assigned to P.I. affiliated to British universities”. 

Giulia Lombardo

»Back to: FEATURES