Best EU brains are still coming here despite Brexit, says UCL university chief




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‘Best talents’: UCL President Professor Michael Arthur has hailed the recruitment of high-profile Europeans UCL

The head of University College London today hailed the recruitment of “high-profile Europeans” to fill some of its key posts as a sign that the Brexit vote is not deterring top EU academics from moving here.

Professor Michael Arthur, provost of UCL, said the new appointees would fill “big jobs” and had been attracted by the capital’s outstanding reputation for science.

He added that the appointments showed “people have not been put off by Brexit” and the “very best” talents were still keen to take posts in London.

He also disclosed that there had been no exodus of European staff since last June’s vote and that the university was optimistic it could retain significant numbers of EU students after Britain’s departure.

Professor Arthur’s comments came during an interview with the Evening Standard in which he set out his university’s latest assessment of the potential impact of Brexit and the measures which it believes can minimise any damage.

He said one of the biggest concerns included whether the Government could “cook a deal” with the EU to retain access to research funding, which last year accounted for about £60 million of UCL’s income.

Another “huge” worry was the potential loss of career development grants for junior and senior academics from the European Research Council.

The university would also like either “free mobility for researchers, academics, students” or “a very cleverly designed immigration system that the EU sees as being a special deal” to ensure full access to talent and continued participation in European research schemes.

But Professor Arthur emphasised that despite the challenges he believed that UCL would continue to thrive after Brexit and retain its top 10 status in the world university rankings.

“I have to be optimistic and I am,” he said.

“I have been worried, those concerns are real, but you can also see a way through and you can see opportunity and therefore the optimism persists.

“I think London will remain a great global city and that will be great for London and great for us.”

He added: “We have recruited some high-profile Europeans in recent weeks. Those people have not been put off by Brexit.

“What they see is a huge global scientific opportunity and the opportunity to make a real difference That seems to trump the impact of Brexit.”

Professor Arthur said UCL expected to see a drop in EU students after Brexit but that significant numbers were still likely to come.

He said he was reassured that ministers were listening to the concerns of universities and was also encouraged by the desire of European institutions for their governments to strike a “win, win” deal allowing continued British participation in EU research schemes.

“Everyone points to British science as being crucial,” he said.

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