Study at Oxford in Helsinki? Brexit could spur the globalization of some star universities

Everybody panic.
Everybody panic.
Image: Reuters/Paul Hackett
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Britain leaving the European Union doesn’t mean its universities are going, too. At least not without a fight.

With fears over Brexit already causing anxiety, the UK’s universities are steeling themselves for the worst: potential cut-offs of research funding from the EU, new difficulties in student and staff recruitment, and—most worryingly—a predicted sharp drop in the number of students enrolling on British campuses from the rest of Europe.

To balance out those losses, some schools are thinking of bringing their campuses to foreign students.

University leaders across the UK have expressed interest in opening EU outposts for their schools—a strategy that would let them retain staff who are only authorized to work within the EU, while also opening up access for students across the continent and allowing for the smooth continuation of partnerships with other European universities.

Foreign grant money is also an area of interest. ”If you are a research-intensive university, like the University of Cambridge, you’ve got very serious amounts of money tied up in this,” Sheffield Hallam University vice-chancellor Chris Husbands told the Guardian.

European outposts wouldn’t be an entirely radical move. British universities are already pretty on top of the university-expansion game, having recently opened a number of satellite campuses in countries like China and Mauritius. Thanks to the looming threat of Brexit, regions closer to home will likely be next—and while UK schools are staying close-lipped on the exact locations of their plans, rumors point to some institutions putting down roots neighboring countries like Ireland, Finland, and Germany.

But not everywhere in Europe is attractive. Said one vice-chancellor to the Guardian: “A piece of advice I’ve had is: if you are looking anywhere, don’t look at France, because it’s a nightmare.”