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Life after Brexit

29 January 2021

5 minutes to read

Life after Brexit

‘Life after Brexit’ is written by Sally Faulkner, Exeter’s Assistant Deputy Vice Chancellor (Europe).

Sally Faulkner

Prof Sally Faulkner

Brexit. Before Covid, Brexit was probably the word and scenario that divided, frustrated and worried UK university communities the most in the decade ahead. Now that we have the double whammy and Brexit is here to stay, I cannot pretend that everything is ok but I do think we have to look up and look out and try to make the best of the Brexit situation for the sake of our students, our university and our communities – locally, nationally and internationally.

I know many will be bruised by the last few years and still anxious about what Brexit will actually mean personally, academically, pedagogically and for our work in universities. In my role as Assistant Deputy Vice Chancellor (Europe) and Professor of Hispanic Studies and Film Studies, and as someone who is passionate about languages and student exchange, I am bitterly disappointed by the loss of the Erasmus+ Scheme and the opportunities lost not just for UK students but for European students and the reciprocal arrangements that I think benefitted so many across our continent.

As yet, we don’t have the full details for the government’s new Turing Scheme but we know it will be backed by over £100 million, providing funding for around 35,000 students in universities, colleges and schools to go on placements and exchanges overseas, starting in September 2021 and that it will target students from disadvantaged backgrounds. I am determined that we can utilise the scheme fully to do the best by our students and help foster the global connections that we all know are so important for knowledge and progress.

We have an outstanding Global Opportunities Team at the University of Exeter and their skills and knowledge will be invaluable in the months and years ahead. We remain very proud of our European connections and collaborations and I want to emphasise our commitment to strengthening ties with our European university partners. To support this and continued European student exchange our Europe Network Fund was launched this week. We will continue to invite and encourage students from our European partners to choose Exeter as their study abroad destination and we are looking at a range of options so that we can make it as easy as possible for European exchanges to occur.

On access to European research funding, the government has announced that the UK will take part in the Horizon Europe research and innovation programme that will run from 2021 to 2027 as an Associated Country. This means that we have all the same rights and access to the programme as those from a Member State would have, so in practice we will see that our involvement in this critical EU programme will continue in much the same way as we have known in the past. Professor Neil Gow has written to all academics on the background and you can get further support and advice by emailing More urgently there are exciting opportunities to bid for the ERC Starting Grant and ERC Consolidator Grant and if you are interested you should email the EU Research team by 5 February for details and to register your interest.

Further, as part of our continuing commitment to support the recruitment of academic staff from Europe, we have updated and extended our Visa Reimbursement Scheme to cover all new staff joining the University under the new Skilled Worker Visa route. When you are recruiting new staff internationally, including citizens from EU countries, you will be able to reassure them that the University will cover both the costs of their visa and the Immigration Health Surcharge. Once you have offered a job to an international candidate, the HR Immigration Team will support your new starter so that they can apply for their visa and take up their new role with the University. HR colleagues are happy to provide information on the new immigration scheme.

In my last blog, ‘Staying connected with Europe’, I explained that we are forging even stronger partnerships with 8 European institutions as well as our collaboration with Venice International University (VIU). I am delighted that these partnerships are already bearing fruit. For example, historian Professor Richard Toye is our first Visiting Professor at the VIU, teaching Global Governance for Peace and Security, Cooperation and Development courses this term.

In times of Covid, we are also making the best of the digital working world and there are many fantastic examples of European online engagement organised by University of Exeter colleagues.

  • For example, Pierre Friedlingstein in Mathematics organised the annual meeting of the Climate-Carbon project 4C, involving 11 European institutions and around 50 participants, so that the usual face-to-face event spanning two days was converted into a two half-day webstival. Also in CEMPS, the €8.3 million GREENPEG project on new exploration tools to explore for lithium and other critical materials in pegmatites, led from Norway, with partners in Germany, Austria, Ireland, Portugal and Spain worked collaboratively online to interview partners for the first phase.
  • In Humanities, Professor Hugh Roberts has been using digital collaborations and online teaching so that students from Exeter, Paris and Berkeley can perform the French Renaissance play George Dandin, by Molière, in spring 2021. PhD candidate in Hispanic Studies and Film Rachel Beaney, meanwhile, has organized an on-line Spanish film festival ‘Screening the Child’ in February and March – sign up for free here:
  • In the College or Medicine and Health, the Nursing team have been collaborating with colleagues at Lund University to run online joint lectures and teaching.
  • The Business School has been collaborating online for a UK-France Interreg-funded project called VISTA AR which creates new visitor experiences by adopting advanced digital technologies at cultural and heritage sites to increase tourism revenue.

In conclusion, then, I remain positive and hopeful that we can see our way through our current challenges. The framework and context within which we work may have changed but I think it is up to all of us to continue to make the case for the valuable exchange of knowledge and people across our borders. For me, the importance of learning languages and student exchanges will remain critical – perhaps even more so now – and I am delighted that the University of Exeter is supporting the international call to action by the British Academy and international partners under the title The Importance of Languages in Global Context. Our Department of Modern Languages and Cultures is supporting this through the campaign ‘Why study modern languages now?’ and you can see films and information on our social media channels.

There is life after Brexit and there is hope beyond Covid and I look forward to continuing to work with you as we shape the University, community and world we want to see in the years ahead.

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