These are the university subjects most at risk due to Brexit

Rob Waugh

Brexit has the potential to strike a devastating blow to British universities, as up to half of academic staff in some departments are EU nationals, a new report claims.

Economics and modern languages will be particularly badly hit, the British Academy report says, with a third of staff in each discipline from the EU.

Up to 40,000 staff from EU countries are thought to work at universities in the UK.

British universities have warned the government that unless EU staff get greater clarity on their post-Brexit rights, there’s a risk they will leave.

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The report also found that 29% of mathematics staff are from EU countries, 26% of chemical engineering staff and 25% of politics staff.

Below is a table that outlines the subjects that received the most income from ‘EU Government Bodies’ as a proportion of total research income in 2014–15:


The report warns that humanities and the social sciences are most at threat.

It states: ‘Six out of the top ten disciplines with the highest proportions of non-UK EU staff are in the humanities and social sciences. Moreover, six out of the top seven disciplines with the highest proportion of non-UK EU undergraduates are in the humanities and social sciences.’

The report concludes that, if the Government fails to act, ‘the reputation and excellence of the humanities and social sciences in the UK as a world-leading research environment, destination of choice for talented researchers, and a top research collaborator will be undermined’.

The report signs off with a warning that the economic competitiveness and social wellbeing of the UK remains at stake.

Professor Ash Amin, who is head of geography at Cambridge University said: ‘It is critical that the government takes action and puts an end to this uncertainty. Today’s report depicts precisely what is at stake: the UK’s position as a world leader in higher education and research.

‘We are calling on government to guarantee a right to remain indefinitely for non-UK EU academics and their dependents working here.’