Brexit in the Bubble

By Blanca Franch Camino
Undergraduate Economics Student, Correspondent 

Politics, despite popular misconceptions, affects our lives in several ways. A Brexit would have serious repercussions in St Andrews, since both the financial structure and the entire higher education system are tied up in the European Union. St Andrews would see marked effects on both its funding (due to tuition fees changes and the cease of EU funding) and its educational offer.

The EU plays a very active role in providing grants for higher education. Indeed, it is currently in the process of approving a new flow of cash into British universities. This plan comprises a total funding of nearly £700 billion directed to the research programme Horizon 2020 (more than 80 per cent of its total in- vestment) and to the Erasmus programme. A Brexit would undermine the quality and quantity of UK- based research by revoking access to these grants, which are a substantial part of the research budget for most UK universities, and to Horizon 2020 itself, which aims to increase our competitiveness.

St Andrews itself benefits from this partnership. For example, £440,000 have been directed towards a research of tuberculosis in our University by the European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP). Meanwhile, 75 per cent of Edinburgh’s budget for research is funded by the EU. The supposed benefits of leaving the Union ultimately do not outweigh the benefits for research and development that remaining in the Union provides.

A Brexit would also affect the structure of tuition fees. Should the UK leave the EU, Europeans would no longer benefit from non-discrimination rules, meaning they would likely be charged the same as overseas students so as not to create conflict of discrimination towards other international students. This would likely discourage potential European candidates from applying to our University, undermining one of the biggest strengths of St Andrews: its diverse community. This diversity is what makes St Andrews unique. We are drawn into a merge of different cultures, backgrounds and thoughts, which, ultimately, enhances our critical thinking and our view of the world.

In the long run discouraging Europeans to come could also affect the quality of the learning experience would diminish as the student body becomes increasingly homogeneous. This, extended to the whole of UK, means that Britain will miss on a lot of talent and skillful migrants, as many international students hope to stay on and work in the UK.

Another concern is the potential impact on collaborative programs within the EU. Both the Erasmus and Bologna plans would not include the UK anymore. This carries a negative impact for those pursuing language degrees, as they would not have nearly as many opportunities to apply their degree through studying abroad. Leaving the Union almost uniformly decreases the opportunities available to British students.

It is not just language students who will be disadvantaged by leaving the Union. Should Britain leave, British students will face higher fee’s abroad, and students from the EU will be less likely to study here; meaning they will be less likely to work here. With such an international student body, and with lecturers hailing from all across Europe, the damage to St Andrew’s bright future would be significant, in the event of Brexit.

For all these reasons, it is understandable that our own university takes a firmly anti-Brexit stance. Upon inquiry, we were informed by the Press Office that the University of St Andrews itself has “adopted a position on Brexit which is supported by universities across Sctoland and the UK.” The official statement includes quotes from The Guardian warning that leaving would be a “disaster.” Writing for The Telegraph and mirroring our universtiy’s view, Simon Green, pro-vice-chancellor and executive dean of languages and social sciences at Aston University, states: “The stakes for universities as institutions in the referendum are extremely high.”

Room For Debate

Ian Donnell, President of the St Andrews Conservative and Unionist Association and National Chair of Conservative Future Scotland: “We know from Brussels and Paris that lawless ghettos, with safe houses and munitions hides are common. Freedom of movement of these people poses great threats to the security of Britain.”

Photo: Lorelei Pfeffer

Stephanie Melnick, Secretary for the University of St Andrews Students for Independence: “If Brexit happens, decreased immigration would adversely affect Scotland. Also, we must note that free movement works both ways, and benefits thousands of British citizens living and working in other EU countries.”


Adam Stromme Editor-in-Chief, The St Andrews Economist: “The UK has always wanted to keep the continent at arms length. But arguing that a Brexit would better our relationship with Europe is like arguing that you can change the direction of Parliament by not voting. You can’t change what you are not a part of.”

Photo: Lorelei Pfeffer

Shreyas Sriram, Member of the Conservative and Unionist Association: “Despite the advantageous political frameworks the EU provides, our efforts would be be er spent developing our relationships with, and invest- ing in, the Commonwealth nations, which have much higher growth potentials than countries within the EU.”

Photo: Lorelei Pfeffer

Marcus Buist, Member of the St Andrews Conservative and Unionist Association: “If the UK votes to remain in the EU we won’t be voting for the status quo. The EU may do very little to make its institutions more democratically accountable; it’s intention will be focused on centralising power still further.”

Photo: Lorelei Pfeffer

Isaac Leaver, Chair of Young European Movement St Andrews: “In the event of a Brexit, federalisation of the EU may well occur at a quicker pace with the withdrawal of one of it’s major opponents from the table.”

Photo: Lorelei Pfeffer

Featured image by University of St Andrews
Student portraits by Lorelei Pfeffer
This piece was a collaboration with The Saint.

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