Unless you’ve been ignoring the media for the last few months you won’t have missed the ever-growing coverage of the issues surrounding the UK’s membership of the European Union, and the referendum in which citizens get to have their say over whether we stay in the EU or leave. Opinions abound and social media is full of sometimes useful, sometimes utterly misleading gifs, charts, memes and graphs.
Regardless of your views on the EU, it’s impossible to deny the real benefits that the education sector in the UK derives from membership. And yet I wonder how many of the general population hold education in their thoughts as they consider which way to vote? Many articles purporting to weigh up the pros and cons of EU membership fail to mention education at all, and when I speak to those who wish to leave, in particular, the deciding issues are invariably immigration (European nationals stealing jobs? China and India are the biggest source of foreign workers in the UK) and security (some say that leaving the EU will give the UK control of its borders but many senior military figures argue that the EU is “an increasingly important pillar of our security.”). So isn’t it time we had a good look at how education would fair?
Perhaps a sound place to focus is on universities and research. Whether you trained as a teacher in a higher education or with the support of a higher education institution, all teachers are, or at least should be, concerned with research and the quality of research opportunities that are open to those wishing to learn more about issues impacting children’s learning. HE Vice chancellors have long been warning us that Brexit – Britain’s exit from the EU – would harm higher education and research. More specifically, that leaving the EU would harm research funding and research collaboration as well as staff and student mobility.
The Complete University Guide put together a guide to what EU membership means to universities and students. It’s worth reading the whole report but in short, membership of the EU gives our students the ability to study abroad with ease under the Erasmus scheme among others. In addition, residents of EU nations can study in other EU nations as home students. That’s a great deal for British students who may make significant savings on their UK fees, depending on where they study. These travel opportunities can be extremely positive for would-be teachers. There is nothing like experience of foreign education systems to help you to appraise, critically, the system in which you will work.
Research partnerships have been beneficial for the UK, too. EU membership has helped the UK to foster links and become important players in the international research community. At a time when interest in research in education specifically is rising, this can only be a positive thing.
While we still have no real idea about the exact nature of any Brexit deal, it’s important to say that the many benefits to education of membership of the EU may not all be lost. However, a vote to leave carries a sizeable risk in the absence of reassurance that the opportunities for learners and researchers currently within the EU will remain, or be bettered, should we leave.
Find out more:
- Information on why the Government believes the UK should remain in the UK: https://www.eureferendum.gov.uk/
- The UK’s EU Referendum: All you need to know from the BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-32810887
- The UK’s EU Referendum 2016 Explained: http://www.parliament.uk/education/about-your-parliament/general-elections/referendums/