Brexit: A disaster for our universities and students

The UK boasts some of the best learning and research institutions in the world. Leading the way in a variety of disciplines and developing key technologies for the modern world. Everything from Graphene and MRI to the Internet and the Computing architecture 98% of our mobile phones use came out of the UK. Research and the development of new professionals for our industries is vital to our economy and advancement.

Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov  discovered the new material Graphene
 whilst working at the University of Manchester

But Brexit has caused a huge headache for our Institutions for many reasons. Firstly, co-operation with other institutions around the world is clearly vital for continued prosperity and leaving the EU may a hinder the possibility of involvement of future European research projects with concerns already being raised. In addition, ERA funding currently provides 11% of the research income to Russell Group universities, if the access to this funding changes under our renegotiation this could increase the funding gap many of our universities are already struggling with and may increase pressures for further rises in the tuition fee cap.

Research funding is not the only income that will suffer. Currently all EU nationals are eligible for ‘Home Fees’ when studying in the UK, this has attracted some of Europe’s brightest to our universities with over 125,000 EU nationals studying in the UK if fees and it is predicted these students contribute £3.7Bn into the British Economy supporting 34,250 jobs. This also ignores the EU nationals that continue to live in the UK after their studies and help make further advances in research. If we don’t continue to support EU students wanting to study in the UK we may find less come to study here again reducing income if this gap isn’t filled by our own students.

Russel Group universities, our leading research institutions may struggle
 to receive funding sufficient funding for projects

But less about the universities themselves, let’s talk about the students. Leaving the EU could be detrimental to the opportunities available to us. Firstly, it may hinder our chances of studying in Europe if we are required to pay Non-EU rates. Also many of my university colleagues have had the opportunity to undertake paid industrial placements in Europe, a great life experience. But If the ability for Britons to work in the EU changes this could affect the opportunity for us to have this experience. In addition, The Erasmus programme currently offers scholarships enabling EU students to travel abroad to study for a year, if these links are broken between our institutions It would be very difficult for our students to undertake a year abroad especially without the Erasmus grant.

Overall the UK needs to be careful on how it implements Brexit to avoid huge issues for such an important industry in our country. We have already seen some work with Philip Hammond announcing plans to continue funding for EU backed research projects but so much more work will be needed to done in the years to come to keep the bonds between our universities and the EU together and protect the quality of education we enjoy.

The Labour Party – An Outsider’s Perspective

Today, the fate of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) was sealed. Supporters of Jeremy Corbyn, the party’s embattled incumbent, successfully fought a campaign in the High Court to win the right to vote in the upcoming leadership election. This all came about when the party’s National Executive Committee ruled that members who had joined Labour after January 12th would be ineligible to vote, unless they paid an extra £25.

This is a key victory for Corbyn and his supporters. He has been able to rally “grassroots” supporters, and generally these newer members are far more likely to support Corbyn than they are to support the welsh challenger, Owen Smith.

An appeal has been launched against the High Court’s decision, so this situation is subject to change. But it’s clear that the problems the PLP is facing are coming to a head.

If this ruling by the High Court is upheld, then Corbyn will undoubtedly win the leadership election. This then creates a very interesting situation – a party leader will be elected with no support from his parliamentary party. There is no doubt in my mind that the PLP will then split irreversibly, with Corbyn’s small band of MPs rallying around whilst the remainder will try and form a new centre-left initiative to face the Tories.

Three groups stand to benefit from this (and neither are Labour); Firstly, the Conservative party will be overjoyed at this news, as unchallenged Tory rule is pretty much guaranteed for at least the 2020 General Election. Second, UKIP will be licking their lips at the thought of snatching up ‘classic Labour supporters’ – the working class Brexiteers who have felt increasingly alienated by the Labour party. Finally, the Liberal Democrats (remember them?) will see this as a chance to snatch the centre-left ground and establish themselves as a serious political party. I for one know many, many Labour supporters who are considering turning to the Lib Dems, should Corbyn win his election.

So Tories in power, UKIP surging in popularity, the Lib Dems resurgent – could the political landscape change so drastically again?

The leadership election is a month and a half away, so I would like to add a pinch of salt with my predictions; these days we should know better than trying to predict political decision making!

We need a strong stance on mental health

 

Mental health has been a topic very close to my heart for a very long time, with mental health affecting myself and many people around me. Over my time working in student radio I had the opportunity to produce a radio show for Mental Health Awareness Week. Something I’ve found especially in the student environment is that social attitudes towards Mental Health are very positive and the work of charitable organisations and volunteers is phenomenal in helping people in need. But these Charities should just be a small helping hand in a developed country like ours, we should expect a strong national service dedicated to mental health. However, something I also found during my research is how the standards of treatment for people with Mental illnesses has not been improving and in some cases is failing horribly.

During her inaugural speech in front of Number 10 Theresa May highlighted ‘If you suffer from mental health problems, there’s not enough help to hand.’ And I completely agree Mrs May we see ourselves in a position where up to four in five children are denied access to treatment in England. Where we have the highest self-harm rate in Europe and has been shown to be rising in young people. Where the amount of people seeking help is rising but funding for mental health trusts is falling. Where the number of psychiatric nurses has fell by 1.4% between 2010/11 and 2014/15. And where we have seen the quality of service drop between 2014 and 2015.

This isn’t a new problem, realising the faults in mental health services the coalition government announced their ‘No health without mental health.’ Strategy in 2011. Which promised to to improve experience, deliver a decrease in people resorting to self-harm and a decrease in those suffering mental health problems all together. However, it is clear to see this strategy was nothing but hot air and the most shocking thing I’ve found is that much of the failings have hit our children hardest. These are the ones in our society most vulnerable and most in need of treatment to help prevent problems re-occurring in later life, and we are letting them down.

So what are you going to do about it Theresa? Your party has sat in government for 6 years overseeing a mental health crisis unfold in front of you for little or no action but decreasing budgets. Even recent recommendations by the NHS to commit £1bn to services by 2020/21 although welcomed has been concluded as not enough, with 90% of Trusts believing there needs to be more investment.

We need to see a strong powerful initiative on Mental health, a true Mental Health Service, not a bare bones service propped up by the police, GP’s and charities. A dedicated organisation with it’s own resources, budget and objectives so it is truly taken seriously as a public service and can be held to account like any other.

Are we going to be alright?

 

Hello, my name is Connor. I’ve done a lot of political commentary on student radio and when Ryan told me he’d started Advance Politics and he wanted me to contribute, it was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down.

To many of us who have an interest in politics and current affairs, the past few weeks have probably appeared as a bit of a blur. Sitting back and thinking about all that has happened, (Brexit, Cameron resigns, Corbyn doesn’t, BoJo vs Gove, Nigel says Bye Bye) you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’ve woken up inside an episode of the Thick of It.

But then you remember that Malcolm Tucker would never have stood for all this and the plot lines of the british political establishment are too fanciful even for the writing of Armando Iannucci. No, even the hilariously sarcastic universe of the Thick of It is too sensible to entertain this nonsense.

“Malcolm, did you hear that Jeremy Corbyn is the new Labour Leader?”

When trying to process the events of June and July, I’ve found I can only really make sense of them if I compare them to
episodes of Peep Show – specifically, the Grand Finale of Peep Show, which saw David Mitchell and Robert Webb finally say goodbye to Jeremy and Mark. That episode is entitled ‘Are we going to be alright?’.

*PEEP SHOW SPOLIERS COMING UP*

The episode revolves around Jeremy’s unwanted surprise 40th Birthday party, with progressively stranger events transpiring to ruin the ‘happily ever after’ that Mark and Jeremy appeared to be heading for, sending them crashing back down to earth. 10 series of Peep Show end with Mark and Jeremy exactly how they started, mundanely watching television with their lives left just as distinctly average as when we first met them.

peep_show_9-6Jeremy and Mark’s expression on hearing we voted for Brexit

Doesn’t that sound eerily familiar? Nick Clegg’s metaphoric rise, A coalition government, Nick Clegg’s cataclysmic fall, Ed Milliband and Jeremy Corbyn all building towards the turmoil of the past few weeks. Disillusion and disbelief are contagious amongst the electorate – the young loathe the old for voting to leave the EU, the old loathe the long for disregarding their credentials. Scotland is trying to get its coat and leave the party, and Northern Ireland might run off with them. And the commentators and reporters have been spouting their favourite ‘buzz phrases’;

“This is a wake up call for political establishment,”

“Britain will never be the same again,”

“The political landscape has been changed for ever,”

But in reality, we’re just like Jeremy and Mark. We’re lying on the sofa blankly staring at the television, acutely aware that the real world is just as average and mundane as ever. You still need to go and buy milk and bread. The dishwasher still needs stacking. Someone still has to go and walk the dog.

Jeremy: the ultimate everyman?

It’s quite easy to forget all that when you’re reading your 15th article of the day on the dangers of Brexit, or why Jeremy Corbyn needs to stand down. Maybe we need to treat it a bit like alcohol? We spend all of Christmas and New Year drinking far too much and make ourselves feel better by having a ‘Dry January’.

We’ve had a 6 year binge on political weirdness; time for a break I think.

 

There Is No Shame In Standing Down Jeremy

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Labour MP for Islington North Jeremy Corbyn

Less than a year ago Jeremy Corbyn shook the British political elite by becoming the leader of the labour party gaining almost 60% with a promise of honest straight talking politics. However, his first year has not been easy and has faced a huge amount of criticism from the more centre leaning PLP and the media from his opposition to airstrikes in Syria to an unconvincing result in this year’s local elections. But last week may have been the final straw when it comes to his leadership with the political elite being shaken again by the EU Referendum result.

In October of last year, I appreciated the breath of fresh air Corbyn brought to the party and the willingness to take a step away from a Blair/Brown era which had now become a stain on the party. I then joined the party hoping to support this new style which would hopefully reignite the image of the party among the disenfranchised working class. And I have followed the party closely since.

However this resurgence has not been seen in his first year at the helm and he has proven time and time again he cannot keep the peace or deliver any real direction in the party. This was shown during the referendum with much of the electorate not being aware of Labour’s stance even with hard work at a grassroots level and much of the working class north siding with the party which is here to represent them. Also in the local elections we see a changing landscape where labour has a battle on two fronts with the Tories in swing seats but now UKIP in the safe Labour north.

Corbyn may have brought a new type of politics back into the labour party but the same old convictions and criticisms held, with many in the public still seeing the party as irresponsible on the economy, this was magnified by the appointment of his long-term ally John McDonnell who has done nothing to tackle this stigma on the party and also seems to enjoy bringing Mao’s Red Book into the Commons all while not really making his voice heard when it comes to policy either.

That said I do not believe it is right to assert someone of similar politics to Corbyn Is unelectable. I believe there is a place for a more left-leaning labour party in the UK which would be electable, with decent public support for the nationalisation of industries like rail and electricity for example. However, it is clear Corbyn has not only lost the support of his MP’s with mass resignations of key positions and 2 reshuffles in his first year, but support among the membership is also decreasing as a YouGov poll this week found, so even the Jewel in Corbyn’s crown is shining a little less bright.

With all taken into account, I believe the landscape we see ourselves in especially after the referendum result and David Cameron’s Resignation has changed significantly from last year and as a result, we need to review our leadership to give the best possible opposition. Especially with the possibility of an early election, it is important the public does not see the Labour Party as a fractured or even a broken party. Jeremy I applaud the fresh honest approach you have given and the effective opposition to some of the government’s most cruel policies. But you have to admit defeat and understand you have lost support from your party and not gained the required public support we would expect from an opposition leader. We don’t want you to be remembered as the man who split the Labour Party.