Medical school opening date could be delayed by Brexit

A sharp drop in the available workforce could see delays to the new medical school opening date, according to vice-chancellor (VC) Rama Thirunamachandran.

A lack of EU workers in the building industry was just one of the Brexit concerns highlighted from the Christ Church boss.

He told Unified reporters that Brexit altogether would have a big impact on the university, both at home and abroad.

Delays in new medical school

A joint application to build the county’s first medical school by Christ Church and the University of Kent was approved in early 2018.

The school has been touted as a solution to the problem of understaffing in local the local hospitals.

But the VC says that Brexit could stand in the way of the 2020 predicted opening date.

“If people were to choose to leave, that may have an effect on the available workforce”

“We have an estates master plan to support the opening of the new schools of medicine and schools of engineering,” said the VC.

“A significant amount of the workforce associated with the new build from London and the south-east are people from EU countries.

“If people were to choose to leave, that may have an effect on the available workforce, especially in the building work area, and put the costs of new builds and refurbishments up, so there are some practical issues outside the education and research process.”

Less students

With Dover port set to expect massive delays following the UK’s departure from the EU single market, experts have warned that Kent could be turned into a ‘gridlocked county’.

And the VC believes this could lead to a reduction in the number of students from local areas

“55% of our students come from the local area and commute in daily,” said the VC.

“There is a lot of fear the transport system around Kent could be snarled up if all the lorries have to be checked at Dover.

“They talk about the M26 being a lorry park – that could affect the mobility of people around Kent, and because so many of our students come from the local area, there will be practical issues.”

EU students may also be put off

Around 1,000 students at Christ Church are from the EU, according to the VC.

Should EU students stop coming, the impact could be devastating for both the university and the local economy.

“There is concern about whether EU students will continue to come to the UK, or whether they will be put off”, said the VC.

VCs across the country are worried about what will happen after Brexit

“There are two reasons they might feel put off – they might feel the UK is not open to EU students, and they might be put off not being able to access the student loan system.

“The UK government has said that EU students will be able to access the student loan system if they start in September 2019, but it is unclear as to what happens in the transition period, and that is a major concern.”

Foreign exchange could be at its end

The UK belongs to the ERASMUS scheme, which allows students to apply to study, train, and work anywhere in the EU.

The scheme also provides funding to organisations who take on the students, and has granted over €570 million (around £500 million) to the UK in grants between 2014 and 2017.

And the VC says that although the government have been making “positive noises”, no decision has been made as to whether we will still be able to take part in the scheme once we leave the European Union.

What will happen in the future?

Thirunamachandran says that VCs across the country are worried about what will happen after we leave the EU.

“Whether we have a hard Brexit or a soft Brexit, it will have big implications on every university in the country,” he said.

“There is concern among all of us VCs across the country. Will EU students continue to come to the UK, or will they be put off?”

Other Vice Chancellors have said that they worry that collaboration between students in the UK and those elsewhere in Europe.

There is also concerns around staffing at Universities, with the University of Kent, a quarter of whose staff are reported to be from the EU, set to be one of the worst hit.

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