Britain’s historic vote to exit the European Union has the financial markets in a tizzy and many observers expressing hyperbolic views of a disaster ahead. While BREXIT has many implications for the United Kingdom’s higher education market, much of what will actually occur is uncertain. Some conclude that there will be limited impact. Others are more pessimistic. “The global attractiveness of British higher education will take a hit,” flatly predicts John A. Quench, a Harvard Business School professor who had been dean of London Business School from 1998 to 2001.
We asked some of Europe’s leading business school deans and professors to provide perspective.
UK Higher Education Will Adapt
“Personally, I regret the result, but for UK higher education as a whole, and London Business School in particular, this should not give the signal that the country has turned inwards,” says Sir Andrew Likierman, London Business School dean. “We are a global school and I believe that the UK will remain an outstandingly attractive place to study.
“We are also an agile institution and have witnessed a lot of changes over the last 50 years. While it is too early to know the details of the new arrangements with the EU, we will adapt and will continue to celebrate the richly diverse community for which we are known.”
A Black Friday For Europe
“Today is black Friday for Europe and constitutes the most dramatic event since the end of the Cold War,” believes Jorg Rochell, president of the European School of Management and Technology (ESMT) and a member of the economic advisory board of the German Federal Ministry of Finance. “The strong negative reactions of the financial markets are only a harbinger for the longer-term economic impact, particularly for the UK. In the short term, only the central banks will be able to appease the situation. Therefore, everyone is waiting for their reactions with great suspense.
“The European Union stands politically at a crossroads, with the risk of further exits. Therefore, it is more important than ever that the result of the referendum be analyzed calmly and carefully. The European Union is and remains the main guarantee of peace and prosperity in Europe. It is also clear that the image of the EU has suffered in recent years. Premature calls for further integration could exacerbate this negative feeling rather than help to bring Europe permanently together.
“With Britain’s exit, Germany loses one of its closest allies within the European Union and faces the risk that the balance of power in the European Union will clearly move to this country’s disadvantage.”
This Is Not Armageddon
“Keep calm and carry on,” advises Jérémy Ghez, an affiliate professor of economics and international affairs at HEC Paris. “This is not Armageddon. It might not even be a crisis. It is just a clarifying moment that might prove to be live-saving for the EU. The United Kingdom’s attitude towards the European project was always ambiguous. The country was happy to be in the EU so long as it had access to the common market and it could reap the benefits of being the region’s financial capital. But it always sought exceptions otherwise. These exceptions were becoming costly, in particular because they were undermining the EU’s consistency as a whole. This couldn’t last. Paradoxically, with the UK out, member states might be in a better position to guarantee the EU’s long term stability and consistency. They may have in particular a far greater ability to rethink what the EU should be about in the long run. That was impossible when a key member was only willing to discuss the exceptions it would benefit from.
“Concretely, European leaders have to get their act together in order to contain negative spillover effects. For instance, they shouldn’t underestimate the power of symbols. A special summit, this weekend, with a few photo ops and some handshakes would go a long way: it would prove that there is someone in the driver’s seat and that the EU is moving forward with a plan to turn the page. In addition, they could double down on existing projects, to re-demonstrate how relevant the EU can be. This would mean considering an expansion of investment efforts, in the framework of the Juncker Investment package for instance. It would entail increasing coordination efforts among EU navies in the Mediterranean Sea to solve the migration crisis. If the EU can’t show the rest of the world it can perform better on this issue, no one will be able to save the institution. Ultimately, it will require some political plan that unequivocally looks to the future. After all, the EU is the world’s largest economy and one of the most vibrant market. The economics of the European project is not a fault — the politics of it is lacking a bit of imagination…”