Brexit threatens high-calibre UK research – study finds

  • Dawn O'Shea
  • UK Professional News
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New research published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine shows that the UK has benefitted from an inflow of high-level scientists and doctors since joining the European Union in 1992. The study authors warn that this inflow of high-calibre professionals must not be impeded by Brexit.

The study examined details of individuals who had been elected Fellows of the Royal Society of Medicine (FRSM) or the Academy of Medical Sciences (FMedSci).

Of 1,056 UK-based FRSM, 10 per cent graduated from the rest of the world (RoW) and 3.1 per cent from Europe. The proportion of European graduates increased markedly after the UK signed the Maastricht treaty in 1992, while the numbers from the RoW remained constant. Pre-1992, only three European graduates had been awarded FRCMs compared to 30 in the period 1993-2015.

Of 1,100 FMedSci, 61 qualified in Europe (5.5%) and 89 in the RoW (8.1%). The percentage of FMedSci from European countries increased from 2.6% pre-1992 to 8.9% post-1992. By contrast, the number of Fellows from the RoW remained stable.

The authors say the findings show the significant contribution of European scientists, academics and medical practitioners to the UK research base and the provision of clinical care.

“Many immigrants have built strong careers that have been rewarded with prestigious fellowships because they have impacted positively on UK research,” they point out.

“It is vital that the national diversity in high-quality human capital that we have highlighted in this article is maintained in a post-Brexit UK research and healthcare environment. Otherwise, there is a high risk of considerable damage to the UK’s top scientific outputs and international research reputation as well as a concomitant reduction in quality healthcare for UK citizens,” they add.