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As a recent graduate I’m devastated by how disastrously Brexit will affect university students

With EU academics leaving the country and opportunities such as Erasmus becoming no loger available to British students, we're limiting the potential of younger generations

Lucas Cumiskey
Sunday 07 January 2018 19:10 GMT
Young people are being stripped of their ability to pursue a culturally varied education
Young people are being stripped of their ability to pursue a culturally varied education

More than 2,300 EU academics have resigned from British universities over the past year, in yet another example of how our choice to leave the EU is negatively impacting students.

This is about more than just the value of having a fluent French teacher. Almost 5,000 of the EU academics who are leaving work in health sciences area, training nurses and doctors, and more than 1,300 are currently in business departments. This is unjustifiable in an era where we’re constantly talking about supporting the NHS and fostering entrepreneurship in the UK.

Indeed, some of my most intellectually stimulating lecturers were from abroad. These teachers gave me a zest for learning and inspired me to pursue my passion for writing. Without them my university experience would have been substantially diminished. It’s a great shame that future students could be deprived from meeting that edifying lecturer who understands how they think and knows how to make them spark.

Last year marked the thirtieth anniversary of the Erasmus Programme, which allows millions of students to move around the European Union and experience new countries, promoting cross-cultural understanding and expanding young people's horizons beyond borders. It now seems that after Brexit British students may well be excluded from the scheme.

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Thanks to Erasmus, I was lucky enough to meet young people from all over Europe while studying at university, forging friendship that have withstood the political fallout of Brexit because international solidarity will always transcend borders.

And this isn’t just a university issue. Erasmus+, the revamped version in effect since 2014, supports programmes within primary schools, as well as vocational training and adult education, offering vital support to people across all ages and backgrounds.

Young people are being stripped of their ability to pursue a culturally varied education, and will have to contend with the possibility that their qualifications will no longer be valid outside of the UK.

All this because the Government is refusing to guarantee the rights of EU nationals who are contributing to crucial sectors of British society.

A recent YouGov survey showed that – unsurprisingly – Remainers are more likely to want to live in a European country than Leave voters. Having voted against Brexit myself I feel let down by a number of terrifying consequences of the referendum, but the damage it looks likely to do to education is the most devastating.

The celebrated American author Mark Twain once wrote that “travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow mindedness.” This is true not just of physically seeing another country, but also of our ability to interact with people from varying backgrounds and cultures.

Not only is the inability to access anything beyond geographical borders a disaster for our intellectual development, it is also key to personal fulfilment. The fact that this is becoming increasingly more difficult means that education is no longer a leveller – and only the most privileged in our society will be given these opportunities.

Brexiteers argue that these issues affect only the middle-class “metropolitan elite”, when in fact there is nothing more elitist than limiting academic resources, making them inaccessible to the vast majority of students.

The right to travel, learn and work in 25 other countries is a freedom that will shortly be stripped from us. For my generation, graduates or not, this loss is a travesty.

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