“Now is the time to stand up and shape the Higher Education agenda,” Professor Matthew Flinders, Chair of the Political Studies Association (PSA), has said after a significant number of worrying accounts about increased insecurity felt by non-UK academics and students as well as open abuse and racism directed at foreign staff and students.
In a statement published yesterday, Professor Flinders called on the broader academic community, including vice chancellors, learned societies, and scholarly academies amongst others, to preserve the integrity of the UK’s world class universities by plotting a decisive course of action in the face of what he calls “a political leadership vacuum”.
Following a lack of government clarity and reassurance on the status of EU staff and students, European access to the Student Loans Company, access to Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020 research funding, the PSA Chair said: “The Government resembles a cabal of sleepwalkers that does not really know where it is going or why.”
In response, he urges the academic community to emphasise tolerance as a central and defining feature of the British higher education system: “Universities will undermine their reputation and credibility if they accept discriminatory practices such as an unwillingness to appoint EU citizens or to offer anything more than a temporary rolling contract."
The public value of Higher Education must also be stressed, he adds:
"It is impossible to ignore the educational divide that was revealed by those who voted either for or against continued membership of the EU. We need to celebrate the role of education in promoting engaged citizenship and encouraging individuals to look beyond their own community."
Professor Flinders has explained the academic community's duty to speak out against the current climate of fear and insecurity, with the clear rationale that it needs to maintain an international outlook. It is impossible to undertake world class research unless you are a member of a world class network that provides access to the necessary international experts, facilities and research groups.
Note to editors:
Professor Matt Flinders is Chair of the Political Studies Association and Founding Director of the Sir Bernard Crick Centre at the
University of Sheffield. He is available for interviews or comment on the above and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 07773 144 155.
A more comprehensive overview of these arguments can be found in Professor Flinders’ statement, 'Standing Up and Shaping the Agenda: Rejecting Discrimination, Embracing Difference' published via the PSA Blog and Huffington Post.