UK universities could lose talented EU staff unless they receive “greater clarity” from the government on the post-Brexit rights of EU nationals, according to the Russell Group.
The group of top research universities says Brexit is causing EU staff “uncertainty and anxiety” and making the recruitment of others harder.
The group has outlined 10 points it says the government must answer.
Ministers say they want “a reciprocal agreement as quickly as possible”.
The Russell Group is composed of 24 universities, including Oxford, Cambridge, Glasgow and Cardiff, which are often oversubscribed at undergraduate level and heavily focused on research.
In a briefing note, the group calls the contribution of EU nationals to research and teaching at its institutions “crucial”.
“More broadly, EU staff and students add to the diversity of our campuses and enrich the learning experience for all,” it said. “We need to do everything we can to ensure these individuals feel valued and supported to stay in the UK.”
Prime Minister Theresa May has outlined plans requiring EU nationals resident in the UK to apply for “settled status”, which would effectively guarantee them indefinite leave to remain in the country once Britain leaves the bloc.
The proposed status would be given to any EU citizen who has been living in the UK continuously for five years.
Those who have been resident for less than five years would be allowed to stay and apply for settled status when they have accumulated the necessary time.
Among the 10 points in the briefing paper is a call for EU nationals who already have permanent residence to be “transferred automatically” to settled status.
It argues that: “There is no need to reassess these individuals’ right to be in the UK.”
Other points include:
- EU students and academics who spend two years or more abroad not to lose their settled status
- Students starting courses this year and next to be assured they can stay and work in the UK after finishing their courses and be eligible for settled status after clocking up residence of five years
- An efficient system for processing applications which places minimum burden on applicants
- Clarity on the rights of families to stay together in the UK
- Cross-border recognition of EU and UK qualifications post-Brexit
The UK wants the issue to be resolved swiftly, although the EU described Mrs May’s offer as a “damp squib” and warned it would give EU citizens fewer rights than their British counterparts.
Russell Group head of policy Jessica Cole said: “Brexit is causing uncertainty and anxiety for EU staff, who need clarity over their future rights as soon as possible.
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“There are around 25,000 members of staff from other EU countries at Russell Group universities delivering high-quality teaching and cutting-edge research. We value our EU colleagues and want them to stay.
“EU staff, students and universities need to be able to plan for the future with confidence.
“We urge the Government to secure an agreement with the EU on citizens’ rights at the earliest possibility.”
A government spokeswoman said: “We have been clear about our commitment to the UK’s world-class higher education sector.
“The government wants to reach a reciprocal agreement for EU citizens in Britain and UK nationals in Europe as quickly as possible. We are developing a new application process and will ensure that it is as light-touch, streamlined and user-friendly as possible.
“We recognise that there are a wide range of individual circumstances to consider and we will continue to engage with the sector as this work develops.”