Scotland’s colleges and universities benefit from being part of the EU

As a representative of a national student organisation and also a mum of four, what drives me is what makes life better for us all - as citizens, families, members of the public. And that’s not necessarily the issues that have been the stuff of political argy bargy over the last few weeks.
In fact it’s everything from the jobs benefits of being in the single market to cheap package holidays.
I love the ability I have as an EU citizen to travel easily, visa free; and affordably, with the cheaper flights that EU action has helped deliver.
Brexit risks no flight delay compensation, mobile roaming charges, and the loss of some travel consumer rights. 

These may not the biggest issues in this referendum, but they matter to people and make the point that there are tangible benefits of being in Europe, rights we have built up as citizens, which we should not throw away on Thursday.

The Leave campaign argue that we should quit and just trade with Europe – that might be OK for big business and right-wing Brexiteers like Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage who would just love to roll back the workers’ rights that are enshrined in the EU.

But it would not be a Europe of rights for citizens in Scotland and the UK – people in the other 27 countries would continue to enjoy them, but we’d have given them up.

And I’m passionate about that in the field of education.

Scotland has a world-class tertiary education system; our undergraduate, postgraduate and doctorate studies attract applications internationally, and our institutions benefit from a socially, culturally and ideologically rich talent pool.

This all makes for a much more progressive and diverse college or university experience - not only in terms of learning & teaching, or indeed research, but on a social level too with dynamic and intelligent student cohorts who have different and complimentary life experiences.

Such a broad outlook challenges us and inspires us to be better than the sum of our parts.

Free movement to study and learn is something to protect, not only to further academic opportunities and enhance our knowledge economy, but to encourage a generation of global citizens and foster social cohesion.

Freedom of movement has given us diverse communities and campuses. It’s enabled younger generations to experience an educational journey alongside students and academics from all corners of the globe, expanding their cultural and social knowledge and understanding. It’s contributed to the creation of cohesive communities and a socially tolerant society.

A Brexit would not just limit the diversity of our campuses, but risk reversing the currently outward-looking, international culture of our education system.

Students aren’t just concerned about the impact of a Brexit on our colleges and universities, but on the broader insularity that would ensue. My generation is connected to young people around the world more than ever before, with globalised networks, campaigning collectively on global issues.

We don’t fear this diverse, international world. We fear isolation.

Scotland’s colleges and universities benefit greatly from being part of the European Union. The EU provides research funding to support collaborative projects between universities - something which has recently been highlighted by government as a major boon to our science and competitiveness - which is providing interesting and diverse opportunities for research and potentially for jobs.

That benefit in terms of diverse student recruitment to our institutions goes both ways of course, as students from Scotland and the rest of the UK have opportunities available to study through the ERASMUS scheme, which is 29 years old and was created to support and enhance that belief; that international mobility is good.

It’s good for the individual to expand their personal experiences and horizons.

It’s good for society to have a better educated population with a wealth and depth of knowledge, with constantly developing and evolving beliefs and values.

And it’s good for our economy too, at a time of continuing challenge, to be able to draw upon an expanded talent pool - both expanded in knowledge base, and expanded recruitment base.

And what does this mean for Scotland? Beyond recruitment of a high-qualified, motivated, dynamic and diverse workforce, the EU Employment directives protect workers against discrimination on the basis of age, race, sexual orientation and more.

It ensures women and men are treated equally at work, that pregnant people are considered and protected, and that maternity & parental leave is available.

It ensures that employees have rights around their contracts, that they have time off between shifts, and a maximum number of hours in a working week, and that employees have the right to be consulted.

The EU is the UK’s biggest trading partner, and Scotland is a more export-oriented economy, so having full access to the singe market is vital for jobs.

And being part of the EU is the only buffer we have to protect students and communities across the UK from regressive Westminster policy. Funding from the European Social Fund promotes employment and social inclusion.

The EU currently funds projects and work across the UK, making sure that disadvantaged groups have fairer life opportunities, including in every one of Scotland’s colleges.

For the complicated world that lies ahead, it makes absolutely no sense to look anything but outward.

The European Union grew out of a desire for peace in a war-torn and divided continent. Five years after World War II ended, France and Germany came up with a plan to ensure their two countries could never go to war against each other again.

A European Union was a noble initiative, and one which we should be proud of. Of course the EU has flaws and could be better – what couldn’t?

So let’s take the best of the past and vote Remain for a better future.


by Vonnie Sandlan, President of NUS Scotland and member of the Scotland Stronger In Europe Advisory Group.