Students' views on life after Brexit: jobs, research and more
More than three-quarters of students surveyed by TARGETjobs after the EU referendum believe it will be harder for them to find work after graduating as a result of Brexit. The survey found that 82% expected Brexit to make it more difficult for them to get a job, while 91% thought Brexit campaigners had not sufficiently investigated the impact on the education of students and young people.
However, TARGETjobs also found marked differences in students’ expectations of the future depending on whether they had voted to leave or remain in the EU. Students who voted Leave were much more likely to be optimistic about their prospects. Among this group, 86% of students did not believe job hunting would be any more difficult for them after Brexit.
Business journalist Declan Curry, a regular commentator at GTI events, said: ‘Many young people feel the vote to leave the European Union will deprive them of future opportunities to work and learn in Europe – opportunities that older generations enjoyed. The full effect of the vote won't be known until we negotiate the precise terms of our divorce from the EU. Young people may find they will keep many of the opportunities in Europe that they demand. But they also know they are in a global market for talent and must remain competitive and relevant, in Europe and beyond.’
Here are the TARGETjobs post-referendum survey results in full, with figures for the overall responses to six key questions about jobs, research and the outlook for universities, as well as a breakdown that shows the difference in views between students who voted Leave and those who voted Remain. TARGETjobs interns Catherine, Emily and Natalie, who are all about to start their final year at university, also give their responses to each of the six questions. The post-referendum survey was a follow-up to an initial poll of more than 7,000 students carried out the day before the vote, which found that more than 80% planned to vote Remain.
Do you believe securing work after university will now be more difficult as a result of Brexit?
TARGETjobs survey: Remain voters – Yes 91%, Leave voters – No 86%, overall – Yes 82%
Catherine: Yes I do, though of course we can’t be 100% sure of anything at the moment. Some companies have already discussed leaving the UK for Europe should Article 50 be invoked, and I do think that’s worrying. Employees of UK companies working in the EU, and vice versa, are also uncertain about the future of their jobs: will their roles change, or might they even be made redundant? That being said though, I do think graduates will be more or less worried depending on the sector they are in: the sector I want to work in – publishing – will hopefully not be too badly affected, but those working in other sectors might be more worried.
Emily: Overall, yes. I think the economy will take a hit for a while and as a result recruitment in both large and small companies is bound to slow down. I do however think that it is hard to predict in the long-run – perhaps there will be new UK laws and regulations to replace EU ones, creating a need for both EU and UK specialists.
Natalie: I am definitely more worried about the job market now. I know that the EU was the UK’s biggest trading partner, and that being inside the EU made the UK a more appealing investment for some companies. The presence of such companies – and the potential for more in the future – made me feel much more secure about employment. Now, I think that a lot of industries – and jobseekers – are likely to suffer.
Do you believe Brexit campaigners have sufficiently investigated the impact on students and young people’s education?
TARGETjobs survey: Remain voters – No 96%, Leave voters – No 51%, overall – No 91%
Catherine: No, I don’t think they have; I can’t recall seeing a single bit of campaigning relating specifically to graduates or students. If there was any, it certainly wasn’t as prevalent as the majority of things Brexit campaigners were talking about.
Emily: No, and judging by the way young people voted, this seems to be the sentiment of most of us. Universities get a lot of funding from the EU; I don’t think anybody knows whether we will lose all of that funding but it is certainly something to be concerned about.
Natalie: I don’t think that the impact on students and young people was considered as much as it should have been. For example, a lot of students take part in the Erasmus exchange programme, which allows them to study in EU countries as part of their degree. Now – without the funds that were available through the Erasmus programme – I think that this will be a lot more difficult. My biggest worry is that reduced exposure to other cultures – for both younger and older people – could lead to an increased sense of prejudice and xenophobia.
Do you expect a reduction of international study and career opportunities as a result of Brexit?
TARGETjobs survey: Remain voters – Yes 96%, Leave voters – No 72%, overall – Yes 88%
Catherine: Yes I do, though I’d expect international study and career opportunities outside of the EU to stay the same – perhaps these will even grow if study/career options within the EU narrow.
Emily: I expect it will be hard to maintain the current state of opportunities because schemes such as the Erasmus+ grant are funded by the EU. However, I’m confident that efforts would be made to try and keep as many opportunities open as possible. I personally benefited enormously from Erasmus+ and think it would be a tragedy to lose this – many students would not be able to afford to do a year abroad without it.
Natalie: Unfortunately, I fully expect to see a decrease in international study and careers. I’ve heard that EU students would now be classed as international students, and so would be paying international fees. Therefore, it just wouldn’t be economically viable for some of them. The same goes for any UK students hoping to attend universities in EU countries. Furthermore, I know that all EU citizens have the right to work in other EU countries without a work permit, and with the same rights as the country’s nationals. The UK’s potential withdrawal from this policy could seriously limit opportunities for some.
Do you believe UK universities will still operate alongside the EU to the same extent?
TARGETjobs survey: Remain voters – No 81%, Leave voters – Yes 74%, overall – No 74%
Catherine: I think that UK universities will try to operate with the EU to the same extent; I’ve already seen several universities email their students to reassure them that they will continue working with the EU. Whether the EU will let them do this however is another question.
Emily: Unfortunately I would be surprised if it were to the same extent, but am hopeful that we will keep a decent level of cooperation.
Natalie: I don’t think that relations between UK and EU universities will be quite the same. I feel that their links were solidified by things like the Erasmus programme, and their enhanced ability to collaborate on research. Now, I’m not sure if such relationships will remain as strong.
Do you believe that your university provided the student body with sufficient information on the consequences of the EU referendum?
TARGETjobs survey: Remain voters – No 56%, Leave voters – No 64%, overall – No 57%
Catherine: No I don’t; I really didn’t hear much about it on campus. The student union was far more preoccupied with the NUS referendum that the European one.
Emily: I was actually on my year abroad during the run-up so was not on campus to receive direct information. I can’t say I received a huge amount of online literature regarding Brexit from my university though.
Natalie: My university published various articles detailing the possible effects of Brexit on children, social cohesion and the economy. However, I think that more of an effort could have been made to present the consequences in ‘student’ terms rather than academic terms. I also think that such information could have been better advertised, for example via email and social media.
Are you worried about the effect Brexit will have on research funding in the UK?
TARGETjobs survey: Remain voters – Yes 94%, Leave voters – No 79%, overall – Yes 84%
Catherine: I hadn’t really considered it until very recently, because the ability to live and work in the EU seems like a bigger priority; but after someone had pointed it out to me, I did start becoming quite nervous about the funding we might lose out on.
Emily: This is my main concern with EU funding, simply because the funding for research is currently so high and is heavily relied upon. I have no doubt that the UK will want to remain competitive and so efforts will be made to ensure that there is funding. But I hope that it is as high, as evenly spread and not directed solely towards a few select universities and disciplines. I’d imagine that’s wishful thinking though.
Natalie: I think that research funding is certainly something to worry about. I don’t believe that the funds provided by the EU could be matched by the British government. Also, the potentially restricted movement of researchers could make collaborative projects much harder to carry out.