At a roundtable discussion that I hosted on the impact of brexit on the creative industries earlier this year we discussed the potentially devastating effect that leaving the EU, particularly without a deal, would have on the universities sector. Lewisham Deptford is home to two universities, Goldsmiths and Trinity Laban, both of which specialise in creative arts subjects and have large European student bodies who they fear losing as a result of Brexit.
I recently wrote to Chris Skidmore with their concerns and other points raised at the meeting. His response, as well as my original letter, can be found below.
In response to concerns raised by both Goldsmiths and Laban about the potential threat to their student numbers as a result of Brexit, the Minister was only able to give guarantees on student finance applications for courses in 2019/20 but was vague about what the situation would be for EU students thereafter. He also pointed to the government’s International Education Strategy from March of this year and their plans to increase international student numbers to 600,000 by 2030 with an extension to the post-study leave period. While an extension of post-study visas is welcome, a vague commitment to upping student numbers and improving the visa process is not a strategy which will help the universities in my constituency maintain the European student numbers which are so vital for the continuation of their creative arts courses.
As far as the continuation of Erasmus+ is concerned, the Minister did offer a little more in the way of reassurance. He has advised that the government are committed to continuing to fund Erasmus for all successful bids submitted before the end of 2020 and will be seeking to hold discussions with the EU about continuing Erasmus+ going forward.
Ultimately however, as with the response I received from Margot James, the Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries, Chris Skidmore’s letter is almost entirely lacking in solid commitments.
The overriding concern of those at the roundtable was the insecurity that their businesses, careers and lives were facing as a result of a lack of clear communication from the government about what support would be offered to the creative industries following Brexit. The majority of those present agreed that European markets and freedom of movement were key to what they and others working in the arts do every day, yet they felt their voices had largely been ignored and side-lined thus far.
Along with my Labour colleagues, I will continue to challenge the government’s lack of commitment and vague promises when it comes to Brexit and particularly where the creative industries are concerned.