What a week!
I hosted my first Dean’s Tea at King’s on Tuesday, when colleagues gathered for a very constructive conversation about what matters to us most as an intellectual community. Topics covered included the gender pay gap and support for staff returning from parental leave.
And on Wednesday colleagues in Modern Languages hosted a really productive forum for schoolteachers on ‘Transitions in Modern Languages Teaching’, which paves the way for further engagement activities planned as part of the ‘Language Acts and Worldmaking’ project, funded under the AHRC’s Open World Research Initiative (OWRI).
It’s all the more disappointing for me, then, that the week should end with the UK’s decision in yesterday’s referendum to leave the European Union.
My own view is that voluntarily cutting ourselves out of the world’s largest economic bloc may ultimately weaken British universities and reduce opportunities for our students and staff. Here in the Faculty of Arts & Humanities at King’s, more and more of our students come from EU member state countries, and we’ve reached a position where more than 50% of our research grant income is from the EU. So the Faculty looks set, I think, to be a much poorer place – intellectually as well as financially – as the UK distances itself from the EU.
That distancing is still some way off, of course, and it’s worth emphasising that, barring unilateral action from the UK Government, there will be no immediate change to our participation at King’s in EU programmes such as Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+, nor to the immigration status of current and prospective EU students and staff.
And it’s on our students and staff that my thoughts are focused now, because I imagine that many in our community – especially those who have come from the rest of the EU to work and study with us, as well as those who have gone out from King’s to work and study in other European countries – will be feeling very uncertain about their place in the world.
In the midst of such uncertainty, it’s vital that we in the Faculty work together to find the best possible way forward. Our wisdom and expertise will enable us to come up with solutions to what look like intractable problems. We can and will deal well with the challenges that lie ahead. Our reputation as a Faculty is built, not simply on straightforward success, but on the way in which we cope with adversity.