The analysis, based on Freedom of Information responses to universities, showed that 2462 staff who grew up in EU member states other the UK have left Scottish institutions since 2016/17.
It found some 941 EU academics left in the last year alone – a significant increase on the 530 who quit in 2015/16, the academic year before the referendum.
The actual number leaving Scotland could be higher as the information gathered was based on responses from just 11 out of 15 universities.
Universities with the most departures since the Brexit vote include Edinburgh (1272), Glasgow (776) and Aberdeen (178). The UK Government requires all 3.6 million EU citizens to apply and gain settled status in order to continue living legally in Britain after Brexit. However, just over one-third of EU nationals have had their settled status confirmed.
The figures were gathered by the Scottish Liberal Democrats, whose education spokeswoman, Beatrice Wishart, warned universities would suffer as a result of the number of EU staff leaving. “It is deeply concerning that Brexit has already
driven many talented academics to abandon the UK,” she said. “Scotland has some of the best universities in the world, but their academic excellence is anchored to the talents of their people, many of whom are from the EU. Ending freedom of movement, and making our country less open, will hurt these institutions.
“Our universities are being threatened by a Brexit brain drain, exacerbated by Boris Johnson’s reckless commitment to crash us out of the EU no matter the cost.”
She added: “This is sadly not surprising given the Tory Party has adopted the xenophobic rhetoric of [Brexit Party leader] Nigel Farage, making our colleagues, friends and family from the EU feel unwelcome.
“The UK Government must acknowledge and address the problem, change its rhetoric and make sure that people who have chosen to come here feel welcome.”
Academics face uncertainty over both their immigration status and their funding following Brexit, meaning the UK risks becoming less competitive in attracting global talent.
Analysis by the Royal Society has shown that the UK’s share of total EU research funding has already fallen from 15.8% (€1.49 billion) in 2015 to 11.3% (€1.06bn) in 2018, while Universities UK reported that 60% of universities surveyed believed they had lost existing or potential staff members to overseas institutions because of Brexit.
The Scottish Government’s Higher Education Minister, Richard Lochhead, pictured above, hit out at the UK Government over Brexit and called for it to do more to attract academic talent to Scotland.
“Given the enormous contribution EU nationals working in our colleges and universities make to education, science and innovation, it is unacceptable that UK policies are making many feel unwelcome, while some others are actually leaving the country,” he said.
“We are working with universities to maintain and strengthen our ties with Europe and the latest official Hesa (Higher Education Statistics Agency) data shows the number of academic staff at Scottish universities from EU countries has increased each year since 2013/14.
“Despite this, I hear regularly from EU residents working and studying in Scottish universities who are concerned and anxious about the UK Government’s hostile immigration policy in the wake of the Brexit vote and seriously considering whether to remain or leave after Brexit.”
He added: “Coupled to this, the uncertainty caused by Brexit around research funding is making UK and Scottish universities seem less attractive for potential research collaboration to their counterparts in the EU.
“No matter the outcome of the Brexit process, the UK Government must ensure its policies take into account the needs of Scottish higher education, or grant Scotland the means and flexibility to be able to attract, recruit and welcome people to our country based on our needs, values and aspirations.”