A university in Dundee has lost more than a dozen academics from countries in the EU due to a “Brexit brain drain”, an MSP has claimed.
Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokeswoman Beatrice Wishart MSP claims the planned departure from the European Union has “driven many talented academics to abandon the UK”.
A Freedom of Information request made to Dundee’s Abertay University shows the institution has lost at least 15 academic staff who hail from EU countries since the referendum in June 2016.
It lost five EU staff in the 2016/17 academic year – which started in August, two months after the referendum, four in 2017/18 and six in 2018/19.
A dozen European staff also left in the academic year before the referendum itself, who may have chosen to leave as a precaution.
The university says the number of EU staff it employs fluctuates from time to time.
A spokesman said: “The total number of EU academic staff working at Abertay has not changed significantly over the last five years.
“We value our staff from across Europe and beyond and have been providing regular information and support to all EU colleagues since the Brexit referendum decision.
“This will continue as matters progress.”
In total, Scottish universities who responded to queries from the Lib Dems say they have shed 2,462 staff since the decision to quit the EU was made by public vote and upheld by the government.
Opponents of Brexit claim uncertainty building before the impending departure – scheduled for January 31 – has led to a drain of academics and EU research funding.
Analysis by the Royal Society has shown that the UK’s share of total EU research funding has already fallen from 15.8% (€1.49 billion) in 2015 to 11.3% (€1.06bn) in 2018.
The body Universities UK has also reported that 60% of universities surveyed believed they had lost existing or potential staff members to overseas institutions because of Brexit.
Ms Wishart, MSP for Shetland, said: “It is deeply concerning that Brexit has already driven many talented academics to abandon the UK.
“Scotland has some of the best universities in the world, but their academic excellence is anchored to the talents of their people, many of whom are from the EU.
“Ending freedom of movement, and making our country less open, will hurt these institutions.
“Our universities are being threatened by a Brexit brain drain, exacerbated by Boris Johnson’s reckless commitment to crash us out of the EU no matter the cost.
“This is sadly not surprising given the Tory party has adopted the xenophobic rhetoric of Nigel Farage, making our colleagues, friends and family from the EU feel unwelcome.
“The UK Government must acknowledge and address the problem, change its rhetoric and
make sure that people who have chosen to come here feel welcome.”
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A UK Government spokesman said: “We will deliver on the people’s priorities by introducing a points-based immigration system in 2021 to attract the brightest and best talent from around the world while bringing overall numbers down.
“We are also attracting more top scientists and researchers into the UK by doubling the number eligible for fast tracked entry.
“Meanwhile, EU citizens in Scotland have until at least the end of 2020 to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme and there have been more than 125,000 applications in Scotland already.”