This morning students like myself will be anxiously picking up their exam results. But for many of us the usual worries about making the grade have been replaced by anxiety about what kind of future we will all have once the car crash of Brexit has played itself out.
Today’s students are tomorrow’s workforce and the students I study with are worried sick about what the future holds.
The government’s determination to leave the EU will determine young people’s futures far more than the contents of our envelopes, and in a way that we seem completely powerless to prevent. Whether we go on to do degrees, or go straight into work, all our futures will be affected.
In 2018, 4 UK universities were in the top 10 of the QS World University Rankings. However, the prestige of our universities relies on us remaining a member of the EU. Data from 2014-15 shows that UK universities attracted more than £836 million in research grants and contracts from EU sources. We lose out on all this funding if we leave. Furthermore, so much of our ground-breaking research is created in collaboration with EU colleagues. Maintaining our current position as a hub of innovation will be impossible if we continue down this path of isolation.
As well as long-term research, even our universities’ day-to-day teaching will be affected. Has the government thought about the 34,400 academics that work in the EU? That’s nearly one in five of university staff at risk if we proceed with a no-deal.
Top research university UCL has stated that 95% of its EU staff have already been offered jobs in European universities.
When you combine this with the potential loss of international opportunities for students like ERASMUS, and our university experiences could be entirely and disastrously different to their predecessors.
Perhaps a more important question to ask is who will shoulder the funding gap for these lower quality degrees? Will it fall on future students like me? Compared to the rest of the EU, students in the UK already have the highest student debt, and although Mrs. May has promised to cap tuition fees at £9250, what is stopping her from going back on that promise if we leave?
Post-university, our prospects remain bleak. Our status as EU citizens made us more employable, as employers would not have to deal with the visa issues and other work-based restrictions non-EU residents have. But even those remaining at home will have their job opportunities impacted.
Take my hometown, Sunderland, as an example. It is an area that has felt alienated from Westminster and Brussels. Cameron’s call of ‘were all in this together’ did not resonate well with the North East, and my city voted 61.3 percent to Leave. But while the government claim to be carrying out their ‘will’, the consequences of Brexit for Sunderland’s prospects will be catastrophic.
Our region has the highest EU goods export relative to the size of the economy, and so the repercussions of no-deal or a botched deal will hit here the hardest. According to the government’s internal impact assessment, growth in the north east will be 16% lower. Nissan is the largest employer in the region, with 6,000 directly under their employment and over 28,000 in its supply chain. Nissan’s main market in relation to the Sunderland plant is the EU, without the single market incentive, Nissan and other Japanese companies in the North East have no real reason to stay. The consequent unemployment will inevitably lead to further class inequality, something we should be aiming to eliminate in society, not make worse.
We have already seen the social consequences of a more divided society. Personally, as a young Muslim woman, I definitely feel that the Brexit vote has made people think that they can now be openly racist and xenophobic, with minimum consequences – If society becomes more polarised, can we even say that we are past the days of ‘rivers of blood’? Or will we let hate represent our nation? We were once proud of being a multicultural society, yet it feels like the voices of hostility are drowning out those for cohesion.
Whatever background and whatever results, all young people face an uncertain future. In exchange for their hard work, students will be rewarded with substandard degrees, poor job prospects, and a country that far from progressing economically and socially, is slipping backwards into prejudice. Students’ receiving their results this Thursday were not consulted on the decision to leave the EU, and their futures seem of little importance to the halls of Westminster.
That is why I am supporting a People’s Vote, young people will be paying the price of Brexit for years to come as well as our student loans and it only seems fair that we get the chance to have our say. Otherwise the celebration of success on results day will be followed by a colossal and unwelcome hangover.
Aaisha Haque is a sixth form student and campaigner with Our Future, Our Choice, a young people’s campaign for a referendum on any Brexit deal