Brexit fallout: Pall of gloom descends on British campuses

    British students hold the UK Union flags and European Union flags | Reuters
    A man takes a copy of the London Evening Standard | AFP
  • Those who have actually voted for the exit do not realise its implications and/or are too old to live to see its effects.

The haloed university campuses of England have come under a spell of gloom after Britain decided to leave the European Union in a crucial referendum on Thursday. Brexit came as a rebuff to the youth, and their liberal views.

Britain's universities, including the old and revered Oxford and Cambridge, have always been the nestling houses of English liberalism. It was on the campuses that young English minds interacted with equally brilliant minds from abroad—be they from just across the channel, or from far-flung erstwhile colonies, or from across the Atlantic.

For a week the talk on the campuses has been about Brexit. However, neither the students nor the staff seemed much worried till the day of polling. Nobody had actually expected this result. Now they all are down in the mouth.

University of Exeter, where I began a three-month training last week, has many international students, both at the graduate and post-graduate levels. Many of them are from EU countries. Almost all of them are shocked at the result of the referendum.

Even the local students were against Britain's exit from the EU. Going by the demography of the voters, most of the people who have voted to leave the EU are middle-aged and elderly. The youngsters all across the country actually wanted to stay with the EU.

The common view heard within the university is that the people did not think it through, and those who have actually voted for the exit do not realise its implications and/or are too old to live to see its effects.

It is the youth who will have to live through the long-term fallout. People are now heard saying that if this has happened, it is not impossible that Trump wins the presidential election in the US.

Many youth are blaming themselves that they didn't go out and vote in large numbers. Considering the very narrow margin by which ‘leave’ won over ‘stay’, those votes mattered a lot.

One of the European students in the group I am working with is here on an EU-funded project to do her PhD. Although she knows that nothing will happen all of a sudden and that she will be able to finish her PhD, she is quite apprehensive. There are many projects being funded by the EU and there are many students who are here on EU scholarships. They now have to get things done before the effects of today’s exit starts to kick in.

In order to pacify the students from other EU countries, the UK universities are sending out confirmations to the academic community that they would not change policies for EU students, at least not any time soon.

​However, the general mood is gloomy within the university. They are all waiting to know what the aftershocks of Thursday's decision are.

Rajalakshmi Karakulam is an Archaeology Research student in MS University Baroda, currently on a training programme in the University of Exeter.

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Topics : #Brexit

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