Scottish universities braced for brain drain if country votes for independence

Sep 2, 2014 by

Senior education figures voice fears about loss of funding and departure of top scientists in the event of a yes vote

Scotland‘s top universities are bracing themselves for a brain drain of their most talented scientists if there is a yes vote for independence, with some academics already prepared to relocate.

Senior academics and university executives told the Guardian they believed Scotland’s best-known universities would lose access to billions of pounds in funding and joint projects supported by British research councils if the country voted to leave the UK.

A number of senior research scientists have already been approached by leading English universities because of the referendum, while some candidates are delaying taking up Scottish posts until after the vote, sources have disclosed.

Researchers have warned their departments they are likely to leave after a yes vote because they fear deep education spending cuts will follow independence, threatening an exodus which is understood to be causing deep anxiety for the country’s university administrators.

Prof Richard Cogdell, director of the Institute of Molecular, Cell and Systems Biology at the University of Glasgow, said: “I have had contact with staff who have said ‘if it’s a yes vote, then I would be looking to leave.'”

Among the subjects most at risk, academics said, were highly prized areas such as advanced computing and informatics; genetic and biomedical research; animal sciences; theoretical physics; and Scotland’s role in multinational projects.

Prof David Weller, director of the Centre for Population Health Sciences at the University of Edinburgh, said 80% of his centre’s work was in collaboration with other UK researchers and cancer charities. “There’s just no way if Scotland was a separate country that kind of arrangement could be sustained. There are huge concerns in the area I work in,” Weller said.

One of Scotland’s leading biomedical experts, Prof Jim Naismith, head of the biomedical sciences research complex at St Andrew’s University, said: “There will a drift away [of expertise]. It will start slowly but there will be a clear drift. It’s not just the people who leave, we won’t be able to bring people in from outside.”

via Scottish universities braced for brain drain if country votes for independence | Politics | The Guardian.

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