Oxford’s Irish boss defends foreign staff

Oxford’s Vice Chancellor Professor Louise Richardson
Photos of VC elect, Prof Louise Richardson by John Cairns 4.9.15

Vice Chancellor Louise Richardson urges PM May to end uncertainty about EU staff

The Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University has appealed to Prime Minister Theresa May for greater clarity on the future of EU workers following the Brexit vote.

Speaking last week at Convocation House, Oxford, Professor Louise Richardson, who hails from Co. Waterford, set about defending the attributes of foreign research staff. She said it was important to recognise the international element of higher education – and employment in general – as an attribute.

While noting that she has never before had to focus on the nationality of her colleagues, she used the address to champion the achievements of non-British EU citizens.

“I have spent my professional life in universities in different countries in which one was judged by the quality of one’s mind not the colour of one’s passport. We must maintain that attitude,” Professor Richardson said.


“Professor Constantin Coussios helped develop a machine that kept two human livers alive outside the body before they were successfully transplanted into other people.

“The technology could double the number of livers available to people on transplant waiting lists. Professor Luciano Floridi is the University’s Professor of Philosophy and Ethics of Information.

“Google has appointed him to their Advisory Council on the Right to be Forgotten, giving him influence on one of the most hotly-debated principles in information use.”

She went on to explain how the work of Professor Martin Seeleib-Kaiser demonstrated that migrants aged 20-34 from European countries had higher employment rates and were less likely to apply for jobseekers’ allowance than their UK peers.

This information, she added, has been passed on to several EU governments, as well as the EU Commission. The situation of EU workers in the UK has become a murky subject, with fears increasing that the government will choose to adopt a ‘hard Brexit’ policy. Prominent Leave campaigner and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said the uncertainty of EU nationals living in Britain is ‘one of our main cards’.

And Home Secretary Amber Rudd claimed that she would “flush out” companies employing foreigners in jobs that could be filled locally. Professor Richardson said it was difficult to devise a plan for going forward when she was unaware of the parameters with regards to foreign employees.

“It would help us greatly if the government were to guarantee the right to remain to all EU citizens who are resident in the country,” she said.

Oxford was ranked number one in the latest edition of the Times Higher Education global league table. And its Vice-Chancellor said it was partly due to vital EU contributions and funding that it was able to achieve such a status.

“Twelve per cent of our research budget comes from the EU. Last year this amounted to £67 million,” she explained. “Without this funding there is no way we would have attained our number one global ranking.”


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