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04th July 2016 Rector Professor Sir Rick Trainor - Rector of Exeter College

Statement from the Rector regarding the implications of the results of the EU Referendum

For centuries Exeter College Oxford has welcomed students, academics and non-academic staff from a wide range of countries.  Currently a substantial proportion of those associated with the College have their origins – as I do – outside the UK.  Like the rest of the University of Oxford, Exeter College has profited enormously from the variety of talents and perspectives that its international character makes possible.

Whatever our individual views on the results of the recent referendum concerning UK membership of the European Union, we can all agree that the outcome has produced understandable concern about how the UK’s intention to depart from the EU will affect this country’s exchange of people – in both directions – with the other 27 countries of the European Union.

Nonetheless, acute anxiety would not be appropriate.  It seems highly likely that the UK’s exit from the EU will not occur for at least two years.  Until that exit occurs there will be no change to current arrangements;  during that period there will be no change either to the status within the UK of citizens of other EU countries or to the status within the rest of the EU of UK citizens.  As an indication of this, the UK’s Student Loans Company announced recently that there would be no change to the eligibility for student loans of students from other EU countries who are either already on course or who are enrolling in UK universities next academic year. Likewise, the UK Government has stated: ‘there will be no immediate changes following the EU Referendum, including in the circumstances of British citizens living in the EU, and European citizens living here. This includes those studying or working at UK universities.’

Although the timing and the outcome of negotiations are inevitably uncertain, there will be prolonged, detailed discussions between the United Kingdom and the European Union concerning the arrangements, including those relating to the movement of students, academics and staff, that will prevail after Britain’s expected departure from the EU takes effect.  UK universities as a whole, and the University of Oxford and its colleges in particular, will be very active in pressing the claims of the academic sector to preserve as much as possible of the current free exchange of people, ideas and programmes within higher education across the national borders within the EU.

I would like to take this opportunity to reaffirm Exeter College’s intention to continue to welcome citizens of other EU countries as students – whether undergraduates or postgraduates – academics and members of non-academic staff.  We shall continue to consider all such applicants on their merits as prospective students and colleagues.  Exeter is a very happily cosmopolitan institution, and we intend to remain so to the full extent that UK law will allow.

Even before the UK embraced European intergration (through the then Common Market) in 1973 there were many Continental Europeans at Exeter and at Oxford’s other colleges.  The great Dutch humanist Desiderius Erasmus visited Exeter more than 500 years ago, and a great many Europeans have followed his path in the meantime, to the great benefit of the College.  Likewise many Exeter academics and students have been, and remain, actively involved in Continental countries, again to the great benefit of the College.  These are traditions that we at Exeter will continue to cherish and encourage.

In these uncertain times, even more than before, we shall do everything possible to protect and advance the interests of Exeter College and all who work and study here.  We at Exeter will remain a proud part of what Oxford’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Louise Richardson, has called a ‘wonderful cosmopolitan community of scholars and students, united in our commitment to education and research, which will continue to thrive, and will emerge even stronger from these extraordinary times’.

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