In comments made to The Courier, Professor Brad MacKay warned that Scottish universities face “losing their world-class statuses” following Brexit.
Professor MacKay, who is a lecturer in the School of Management as well as the Vice Principal International of the University, believes that St Andrews is well positioned to “navigate the challenges posed by Brexit.”
However, it remains clear that Professor MacKay is concerned about the potential impacts, and that it is unclear if EU funding will be replaced from domestic sources, possibly compromising the ability of Scottish universities to “remain among the best in the world.”
He also stressed that it is going to be increasingly difficult to attract the best students and faculty from abroad, as the government is placing increasing restrictions on student and post-study visas, which he views as sending a message that “the UK is turning inward.”
He highlighted the fact that St Andrews has been so successful largely because of its international nature, and suggested that Brexit could cripple St Andrews’ ability to compete with other institutions in the future.
Currently, 46 per cent of St Andrews students come from outside of the UK, and 12 per cent from European Union nations.
Any tightening of immigration policies following Brexit, especially if free movement of people is not included in the final deal, could potentially have an impact on the student body.
The Scottish government announced in February that European Union students who start their course in the 2019-20 academic year will still be able to attend Scottish universities for free, but it remains unclear what will happen in years to come.
Universities Scotland has suggested that the end to free places for EU students will enable more low-income Scots to attend university, but these claims remain controversial.
Professor MacKay is not alone in having concerns about the impact of Brexit on Scottish universities.
Professor Andrea Nolan, who is the convenor of Universities Scotland, argued for a longer implementation period in front of the House of Commons back in January.
She argued that the profound challenge facing Scottish universities, who collectively source 25 per cent of their research staff from the EU, makes a “strong case” for a longer implementation period due to the potential shortage of both staff and students following Brexit.
On this matter, there appears to be a split between the UK government and the Scottish government, with the Scottish government keen to retain both its ties to the EU following Brexit and the EU staff and students that comprise a large portion of its universities.
This is very much in keeping with the results of the EU referendum, in which Scotland overwhelmingly voted to remain in the EU by a margin of 62 per cent to 38 per cent.
Throughout the whole Brexit process, there have been suggestions that the UK government has failed to take into account the effects of Brexit on Scotland.
This is particularly acute in the case of education, as Scotland’s unique tuition fee system means that a large proportion of students originate from the EU.
Whatever agreement is finally made surrounding Brexit, it is clear that effects from it are likely to be seen in St Andrews.