Speaking to the Evening Standard, Imperial president Alice Gast said she was “very concerned” about the uncertainties surrounding Brexit negotiations, which have caused some Imperial staff who had moved to the UK from the EU to return. Half of the remaining staff have attended presentations about free legal support with around 220 people attending one-to-one advice sessions.
However, she added: “We are still attracting talent because we are a great and very international university and we intend to stay that way,” citing the recruitment of Professor Francisco Veloso as dean of Imperial College Business School, and Professor Simone Buitendijk as Vice Provost (Education).
Despite the challenges ahead, Professor Gast remains hopeful about Imperial’s future in post-Brexit Britain.
“I am optimistic that the value of the higher education community is understood both in Europe and the UK and that will be a motivation to negotiate good solutions to Brexit to maintain those collaborations (with EU member states). We just have to find the right way to get there,” she said. “We need to address the challenges of talent mobility. It will come down to good immigration policies that will enable us to bring in talented people,” she added.
In an interview with French newspaper Le Monde earlier this year Professor Gast said: “With Brexit, Europeans risk being treated here like other foreigners. It will then be necessary to pay close attention to the migration policy that will be conducted.
“We intend to remain the most international institution. We do not want border issues to jeopardize this situation. If there are border controls, we will commit to always collaborating with people of talent.” she continued.
Professor Gast said research funded by the EU had been of “great value” to Imperial and that it is essential these collaborations continue. In October last year, Professor Gast announced a European Partners Fund worth £100,000 a year to “develop collaborations in Europe which lead to new science and to applications for external funding.”
One quarter of Imperial staff and one fifth of its students come from the EU. Their rights and protections while living in the UK after Brexit are still uncertain. Although progress is understood to have been made on the Divorce Bill and Irish border, Britain’s offers regarding the rights of EU citizens living in the UK post-Brexit have repeatedly been rejected by the EU as not going far enough.