Blog: The Brexit effect on further education

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Blog: The Brexit effect on further education

Brexit is one of the ‘hot topic’ sessions at this year’s AoC annual conference. The UK’s departure from the European Union (EU) has dominated the national news since June 2016, yet there are still many unanswered questions about what it will actually mean.

In education, much of the media attention around Brexit has focused on universities. It’s true that the scale of European research funding and the number of European staff working at universities are genuine concerns. But what’s the likely impact for colleges? Will Brexit make a difference?

The answer is yes. The direct impact on colleges may be less than in some areas of national life, but over the last 40 years the EU has made a difference to our sector. EU lecturers work in our classrooms, EU students enrol in our classes, and EU funding is drawn down by colleges.

31 March 2019, the point at which the UK should leave the EU, is fast approaching. Changes to our economy and migration patterns after this date would change the demands for education and training. Colleges play a key role in training and retraining young people and adults for the world of work. To continue to play (and to potentially grow) this role effectively, colleges will need clarity on two key issues; funding and EU citizens’ rights.

On funding; will colleges be able to apply for EU programme funds from the European Social Fund (£100m to colleges in 2014-15) or from Erasmus+ (€28m to colleges since 2014)? Will there be changes to VAT that could benefit colleges?

On citizens’ rights; will EU students need a visa to come and study in the UK after March 2019? Will EU staff working in colleges (on average 23 EU nationals per college) be able to stay? What about children of EU nationals currently studying in our UK schools, will they be able to progress to college?

I’m sure that I will be asked these questions not just by colleges but also by my European colleagues, as this month I will be attending the EUProVET conference in Slovenia and European Vocational Skills Week in Brussels. In discussions with my European counterparts, we need to give the unanswered Brexit questions the attention they deserve, but without losing the valuable opportunity to focus on the current themes common to colleges across Europe and to learn from each other.

AoC exists to support colleges and to provide a voice for what our sector does and needs. As March 2019 approaches, we will continue to provide as much information and advice as possible to support our members. As we understand and answer the Brexit questions, I’m confident that we will still find many ways to share best practice with our counterparts from Amsterdam to Australia.

Written by Emma Meredith, International Director at Association of Colleges

If you’d like to know more about how AoC and AoC Create can support your college to set up or develop its international division, please visit our International Support page. You can also hear from Emma on day two in the ‘Brexit negotiations and what they mean for colleges’ hot topic session.

Note: Only registered delegates will able to book a one-to-one session.

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