Brexit & University Sport

There is no area of life which isn’t going to be effected by the decision to leave the EU – it is a decision which has the potential to define the direction of the country for decades to come. Whether this is a positive or negative depends on your view point, however this decision, and the potential knock on factors have the potential to reshape elements of the university sporting programme.

How legislation looks around students entering the U.K. will no doubt impact the number of students coming to the UK from Europe, and also what universities decide to regarding the setting of fees. Will they be increased to match those of students coming from outside of EU or stay as they are now in line with U.K. fees? My guess would be at least somewhere in the middle with leading academics and vice-chancellors having expressing serious concerns including the VC of Oxford Brookes describing a hard ‘Brexit’ (I hate that word) in the Guardian as ‘the biggest disaster for the university sector for many years’.

The tone of the speech given by the Prime Minister last week, including where she still hasn’t been able to give guarantees about the status of EU nationals inside the UK (and also saying some other European leaders were posing some challenges around this), would indicate that negotiating easy access for European students to the UK may not be an easy ride.

Universities receive significant levels of funding both from EU students and a variety of other means (which I am not expert on), but not receiving these funds (if that ends up being the case) may lead to prices having to increase elsewhere, alongside potential fee hikes. Will membership fees of sports clubs and facilities need to up to cover less central funding being received? Will ever increasing fees lead to more students focusing purely on education and extra-curricular becoming more of a side show? Will it lead to a decrease in people wanting to commit to BUCS sport but more to participation programmes? Who knows.

The funding gap could well impact UK students fees as well now universities have more opportunity to look at fee increases, and there are other potential knock-ons which have could see significant changes. The Scottish First Minister has clearly indicated on a number of occasions that, as Scotland have voted to remain in the EU, they wish to retain membership, and last week’s speech, where the Prime Minister indicated the UK will not be part of the single market or the customs union in its current form, indicates that a second referendum has become more likely.

A leave vote would then question the role of Scottish universities in BUCS sport, especially if there were border restrictions. This would lead to a significant shake up in the league table with Edinburgh and Stirling in particular well established universities, but also the running of the organisation which relies heavily on membership fees – losing 24 members of approximately 160 would come at a cost.

On the flip side, could movement from other parts of the world become easier? Countries like the US (with Donald Trump indicating he is very keen to speak to UK regarding trade deals) be more open as they are dealing with one country and not a whole union? Could this make it easier for American students to come into the UK and support our growing Lacrosse, Basketball and American Football programmes? Who knows?

The reality is, although we will all be effected, no one knows. My views on it, as have probably come through are that leaving has a potential of being extremely damaging, although being honest, who knows where we will be this time next year. Did anyone think at the start of 2016 we would have voted to leave and seen Donald Trump elected as US President? I haven’t met anyone who did, so I wouldn’t put it past something happening in the next 12 months which none of us expect, which may change the landscape again.

Chris Campbell – Performance Sport Manager


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