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Education

Brexit threat to Welsh universities

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Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 14.06.36MORE THAN 100 prospective European students have withdrawn applications to study at a Welsh university following the European referendum result. 

Professor John Grattan, acting Vice- Chancellor of Aberystwyth University, said about half of those pulled out the day after the Brexit vote.

“I won’t hide it from you that Brexit poses a challenge to the university,” Prof Grattan told students during one of the graduation ceremonies this week.

“Over 100 European students have withdrawn their applications to us at this point, 50 by the end of Friday on Brexit day.

“That’s a stunning impact on our finances. There are 120,000 European students at British universities.”

The BBC has reported that Prof Grattan’s concerns do not exist in isolation, and that other Welsh Universities are also concerned about both the short -term and long -term effects on their finances.

THE CHALLENGE OF BREXIT 

‘Leaving the EU will create significant challenges for Welsh universities’. Whether one considers that comment, made by Wales’s Cabinet Secretary for Education, Kirsty Williams, as unnecessary doom-mongering or a significant understatement of the size of the problems ahead, the decision to leave the EU will have a significant impact on the Welsh higher education sector.

The reliance of some institutions and some courses on relatively significant numbers of EU students to ensure viability of provision could cause considerable pressure on the already-squeezed budgets of higher education institutions.

While leaving the EU will not happen overnight – to the apparent amazement of some Brexit supporters – there will be a gradual exit process and it is that process which presents Welsh Universities with the best chance to ensure that they do not lose out as the tide of EU students studying in the UK reduces – as it surely will – and the opportunities available to Welsh students to study in the EU recede.

The EU referendum outcome will not lead to any immediate change to the immigration status of current EU students or those about to start a course in the coming academic year (2016–17). This has been confirmed in a statement from Jo Johnson, UK Minister of State for Universities and Science.

Ms Johnson said: “EU and international students make an important contribution to our world-class universities, and our European neighbours are among some of our closest research partners.

“There are obviously big discussions to be had with our European partners, and I look forward to working with the sector to ensure its voice is fully represented and that it continues to go from strength to strength.”

However, the longer term implications for EU students who want to apply to study in the UK (ie from 2017–18 onwards) will depend on the outcome of negotiations and what kind of relationship the UK agrees with the EU.

An immediate priority for Welsh universities is to urge the government to take steps to ensure students from EU countries can continue to study at UK universities on the same terms after the UK leaves the European Union and beyond.

‘EU STAFF VITAL’ 

Kirsty Williams has sought to address concerns raised in the aftermath of the referendum: “There is no escaping that the recent referendum has unleashed uncertainty and worry. In some cases, it may have roused the spectre of racial tensions. I want to send a message loud and clear that students and staff from across the European Union are still welcome at Welsh Universities. Those already studying here, and those who are planning to come, are still welcome – our places of learning are still there for you.

“Welsh universities will continue to recruit and teach students from across the world. The long, proud tradition of European students coming to Wales has helped us foster our relationship with many countries. There are thousands of people who have a special place for Wales in their hearts after studying here. Our country will remain a tolerant, accepting and safe place where people from any nation can pursue their academic ambitions. Let me be clear, we will not tolerate any form of racial abuse whether on our campuses or within the wider communities in which we are rooted.

“Let’s not forget EU staff are vital to the operation of our universities. We attract some of the best minds from across Europe to teach here and importantly carry out research that will benefit the people of Wales, from developing life-saving medicines to clean energy. This will not and must not change. Our universities are central to our social and economic future and they thrive through the diversity of the people who come to them.

“The Welsh Government is determined to protect Wales’ reputation as a friendly and tolerant place to study and carry out world-class research. Whatever the long-term implication of the vote, we remain an outward looking and welcoming nation where we are committed to sharing knowledge across national borders.”

STUDENT FINANCE 

EU students attending universities in England and Wales who are eligible under current rules to receive loans and grants from the Student Loans Company will continue to do so for the duration of courses they are currently enrolled on, or are about to start this coming year. This has been confirmed by the Student Loans Company for England, and by Universities Wales for Wales.

Under EU law, students from EU member states applying for undergraduate degrees at Scottish universities are currently eligible for free tuition. For EU students attending a university in Scotland, the Scottish Government and Universities Scotland have confirmed that there has been no change in current funding arrangements and that eligible EU students already studying in Scotland or commencing their studies in the coming months will continue to benefit from free tuition and, for those who meet the residency requirement, associated living cost support.

EU nationals or their family members, currently in higher education, and who are assessed as eligible to receive loans and/or grants from SFW, will continue to receive these loans and grants until they finish their course. This applies to all student finance from SFW for students in Wales for which EU nationals are eligible. This includes grants and loans to cover tuition fees (for those resident in the EEA for three years), loans and grants for maintenance (limited to those resident in the UK for at least three years), and some other grants and allowances.

The rules applying to EU nationals, or their family members, who have applied for a place at university from this August to study a course which attracts student support are unchanged. SFW will assess these applications against existing eligibility criteria, and will provide loans and/or grants in the normal way. EU nationals, or their family members, who are assessed as eligible to receive grants and/ or loans by the SLC will then be eligible for the duration of their study on that course.

RESEARCH OPPORTUNITIES THREATENED 

While there will be no immediate change to the UK university sector’s ability to participate in EU research and innovation programmes, such as Horizon 2020, the long term future of UK participation in European science programmes will be decided as part of the UK’s exit negotiations. These talks are expected to take up to two years. The UK will remain an EU member during this time and as such will be entitled to participate in EU programmes and apply for EU research grants.

After that point, the situation is uncertain. Although Universities UK is committed to making sure that the UK government takes steps to ensure that the UK can continue to participate in EU research collaboration and funding programmes after the UK formally leaves the European Union, the UK will be reliant upon either the goodwill or self-interest of its former EU partners. What it will be keen to avoid is the sort of relationship Canada has with the EU where it gets to participate in research but not have access to all of that research’s results.

The issue of research funding was raised during the Brexit campaign, but nobody on either side of the referendum debate appears to have given the matter any real thought or made any real preparations for the consequences of Brexit upon Britain’s research sector.

STAFFING 

The UK government has confirmed that there has been no change to the rights and status of EU nationals in the UK as a result of the referendum, and that it ‘recognises and values the important contribution made by EU and other non-UK citizens who work, study and live in the UK’.

The UK remains a member of the EU for the time being and the government has confirmed that there will be no immediate changes to UK visa policies for university staff currently in, or contemplating coming to, the UK from the EU.

In terms of recruiting EU staff in the longer term, any changes will depend on the kind of relationship the UK negotiates with the EU. Universities UK (UUK) is urging the UK government to guarantee that those currently working at UK universities can continue to do so in the long term. UUK is also calling on the UK government to make a clear and unequivocal statement that any changes to immigration status will only apply to new entrants to the UK.

However, as long as the UK remains a member of the EU – that is until the end of the Article 50 process intended to manage the UK’s withdrawal – there is likely to be stasis on the issue and accompanying uncertainty.

UK STUDENTS IN THE EU 

While EU students are a source of finance to UK Universities, small numbers of UK students elect to attend European universities, some because tuition fees are lower in some high quality institutions in Europe than they are (regardless of the quality of the teaching) in almost every UK higher education provider. In addition, UK students enjoy access to European Universities as part of academic exchanges as part of their courses and the Erasmus+ programme.

The Erasmus+ Programme is a European funding programme established in 1987, offering university students the possibility of studying or doing an internship abroad in another country for a period of at least two months and maximum 12 months per cycle of studies. After completing a first year of studies any student can benefit from the Erasmus+ studies and Erasmus+ placement programmes. Each student receives a grant which covers partly the costs of the stay abroad. Grants differ from sending and host countries. The grant can often be complemented by regional or national grants.

Students from UK universities currently overseas on an Erasmus+ placement, and those considering applying to participate in Erasmus+ next year (2016-17), will not be affected by the referendum result. The European Commission has confirmed that EU law continues to apply to the full in the United Kingdom until it is no longer a member. This therefore also applies to the projects financed through the Erasmus+ programme.

In the longer term, Universities UK will be urging the government to seek assurances from the EU that the UK can continue to access this valuable exchange programme. However, there are no guarantees and whether the issue will even figure as anything but a footnote in the Brexit negotiations remains to be seen.

Back to Kirsty Williams who, speaking at a graduation event at Swansea University on July 14, remarked: “Our universities are central to our social and economic future and they thrive through the diversity of the people who come to them.

“The Welsh Government is determined to protect Wales’ reputation as a friendly and tolerant place to study and carry out world-class research. Whatever the long-term implication of the vote, we remain an outward looking and welcoming nation where we are committed to sharing knowledge across national borders.”

Whether those fine words convert into educational reality is, however, very much out of the Welsh Government’s hands.

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Education

Translated teaching materials help Ceredigion children stay safe online

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Children in Ysgol Gymraeg Aberystwyth have had lessons in online safety using newly translated teaching materials.

The deputy headteacher of Ysgol Gymraeg Aberystwyth, Gareth James used the materials to teach children through the medium of Welsh about being safe online. The materials were initially developed by Google and Parent Zone and was translated using Google funding. The Welsh Government endorsed the materials.

Online safety is taught throughout the year in schools across the county. Ceredigion schools have adopted the Welsh Government’s Digital Competence Framework, which includes teaching online safety. The newly translated materials will help schools teach online safety more effectively.

Councillor Catrin Miles is Ceredigion County Council’s Cabinet member responsible for Learning Services. She said: “The internet is now ever-present in children’s lives. As more and more information and learning opportunities are available on-line, it is essential that we equip our children to make the best use of what is on offer. To do this we have to make sure that they know how to use the internet safely, to be aware of the threats and how to deal with them.

“It’s important that the teaching materials are available in Welsh, and I was delighted to see them being used in Ysgol Gymraeg Aberystwyth.”

Councillor Ellen ap Gwynn is the Leader of Ceredigion County Council. She said: “We are committed to increasing and improving Welsh medium education in the county. We are fortunate to have a talented and largely bilingual workforce, but materials such as this are a great help to improve the quality of Welsh medium education in the county.”

Minister for Education, Kirsty Williams AM said: “It was great to attend Ysgol Gymraeg Aberystwyth to see a lesson from Google’s ‘Be Internet Legends’ Programme being delivered. Ensuring the safety of children and young people online is so important and these resources will support learners to consider things like their digital footprint.

“With the resources due to be launched bilingually on Hwb shortly that will mean that all pupils in Wales can benefit from the programme.”

Vicki Shotbolt is the founder and CEO of Parent Zone. She said: “It is essential that children learn to think carefully and critically about what they do and see online. Parent Zone has teamed with Google to teach younger children the essential tools they need to become safe and confident online explorers, helping them be resilient, kind and positive in this digital age.”

Rosie Luff, Public Policy Manager at Google UK said: “We are delighted to visit Ysgol Gymraeg Aberystwyth today to help teach children about how to Be Internet Legends. By getting acquainted with what we believe are the five core areas of online safety, we want to prepare children to have a safe and positive experience online.”

Ysgol Gymraeg Aberystwyth has played a part in designing the Welsh Government’s new curriculum as a Pioneer School for the last three years. The school is leading the way in beginning to embed the principles of the new curriculum, including online safety in particular.

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Education

What 3 words links with UWTSD

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UWTSD recently welcomed Richard Lewis, Travel and Tourism Consultant at what3words to the University’s Institute of Management and Health.

Richard delivered a guest lecture to students from International Travel, Tourism, Events and Leisure Resort Management on the benefits of using the new system that has divided the world into 3m x 3m squares and given each a unique 3-word address. It means that every place around the world has been given a reliable and precise address.

Jacqui Jones, Programme Director said: “We were delighted to host Richard’s lecture and hope it is the start of an exciting relationship between What3words & our Tourism Programmes at UWTSD to explore this innovative new travel development.

“We strongly hope that this initiative will become a catalyst enabling our industry partners from the tourism & events sectors to benefit from the use of what3words. Our students are already using the app and will also use it as part of their educational tourism adventures to Qatar, Malaysia, Switzerland, Singapore & London in the New Year. They are also all looking forward to helping the Tourism & Events industry launch the Welsh version of what3words in 2020.”

Co-founded in London in 2013 by Chris Sheldrick, what3words is designed for travellers making their way around the entire globe. Currently available in over 30 languages, the revolutionary technology is available to more than half of the world’s countries in at least one of their official languages.

3-word addresses are also listed by tourism boards and incorporated into major travel guides like Lonely Planet, EatOut and Secret Luxury Hotels, as well as digital guides like Saudi Tourism and TripWolf. Mercedes-Benz has also created its own series of luxury local guides after launching what3words voice navigation in its vehicles.

The unique system, accessed by downloading the app, is also being used by a number of British Police Forces and other UK Emergency Services including South Wales Fire and Rescue and South Wales Police, to respond to incidents more effectively. Police Force call-handlers are able to send an SMS that contains a link to the what3words browser map site, where they can see their location and read the corresponding 3-word address. Help is then dispatched to that precise location.
what3words has a team of over 70 people, across offices in London UK, Johannesburg ZA and Ulaanbaatar Mongolia.

In early 2018, Daimler took a stake of around 10%, following a Series B raise of £17 million led by Aramex. Prior to this, investors include Intel Capital, Deutsche-Bahn and Horizons Ventures.

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Education

RSPCA looks for Compassionate Class

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DO YOU have a class full of animal lovers who want to make a difference in the animal welfare world?
The RSPCA has launched its Compassionate Class competition for 2020 – which is an innovative programme that encourages children to develop compassion and empathy through the lens of animal welfare.
This year’s entrants will follow in the footsteps of the Year 3 class at Ysgol Gymraeg Coed y Gof who were recognised as 2019’s ‘Most Compassionate Class’ across England and Wales.
Last year around 700 schools took part with the Cardiff school impressing judges with their Welsh-language animation, which incorporated into a short production several key animal welfare messages.
Compassionate Class takes an interactive, discussion-based approach to develop emotional literacy and consider the welfare needs of animals. These PSHE Association-accredited resources are designed to provide an exciting learning experience as well as supporting schools in the delivery of spiritual, moral, social and cultural education (SMSC) for 7 – 11-year-olds.
Through a series of enquiry-led activities, children will consider what it means to be compassionate, understand the needs of different types of animals, and work collaboratively to develop empathy skills for their school lives and beyond.
The programme – which is now open and closes on March 23 – finishes with the chance to enter the Most Compassionate Class awards.
Dave Allen, Head of Prevention and Education at the RSPCA said: “We are very much looking forward to this year’s Compassionate Class which is about developing compassion and empathy through the lens of animal welfare and the programme encourages children to think about the needs of animals and help them to realise that animals have feelings and are sentient.
“The activities teach children about the five animal welfare needs, while the resources get them talking and debating about the importance of animals and creates an awareness of how we should respect them and each other. In turn, we hope this will help to create a kinder society in the future.
“We were just blown away with Ysgol Gymraeg Coed y Gof last year and we can’t wait to see what participating schools come up with this year.”
Ysgol Gymraeg Coed y Gof’s animated video featured the rules people need to follow to keep animals safe and healthy in a whole series of environments.
Year 3 teacher Nia Norman at Ysgol Gymraeg Coed y Gof, said: “We felt taking part in Compassionate Class would be a great opportunity for the children to build compassion towards animals and hopefully each other as a result. The children loved learning about animals, their habitats and their needs. They were all very passionate about protecting animals’ environments and what we as individuals can do to help preserve them.
“I’m super proud of the children, they worked so hard. We were thrilled to hear that we had won. We didn’t really enter the competition to win but to be able to complete the project with the children so that they would have an end product for which they would be really proud.
“The children were so excited when they found out we’d won. We hope that they will always remember that they are national winners although, of course, they’re winners for us every day!”
For more information, or to sign-up your school, visit www.rspca.org.uk/compassionateclass

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