Oxford University denies post-Brexit plan for French campus
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Oxford University denies post-Brexit plan for French campus

Oxford University denies post-Brexit plan for French campus

The University of Oxford has denied claims that it will be opening its first overseas campus in France as its response to the United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union (EU), i.e. Brexit.

On Monday, The Daily Telegraph reported that the university was planning to break its 700 years of tradition by opening a campus in Paris, the construction of which would purportedly begin in 2018. The Telegraph also reported that senior staff met French officials last week to discuss about Oxford and Warwick University possibly having a satellite base in Paris that could guarantee Oxford future EU funding.

In the U.K., universities are facing an uncertain future following the Brexit vote, where they may lose crucial research funding from the EU. If Oxford opens a French campus, it was posited that the campus would have French legal status and would continue to receive EU funding.

However, its head of news and information, Stephen Rouse told Fortune: “We’re not going.”

“The university has received several constructive and helpful proposals from European colleagues since the Brexit vote,” Oxford said in a statement, but it is “not…pursuing the model of a campus overseas.”

France is currently launching a charm offensive across the English Channel through offers to entice businesses to the neighbouring European country. Last week, the invitation was extended to the higher education sector as well.

The ComUE (consortium of universities and establishments) of the Universite of Paris Seine, called for U.K.’s higher education institutions to be part of its Paris Seine International Campus, which first opened in 2016. The campus will reserve facilities and services on site for British students and faculty, with aims to develop high-level research and teaching activities. Universities have until July 14 to express their interest.

“We knew that we wanted to attract international institutions, but the event of Brexit led us to [think] that it was good to start with the British,” Jean-Michel Blanquer, the former director-general of the French ministry for education, told Times Higher Education.

Ecole Supérieure des Sciences Economiques et Commerciales (ESSEC Business School), one of Paris Seine’s constituent institutions. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Oxford University is not the only U.K. institution who had turned down this offer – CNBC reports that Cambridge University and Manchester University do not have plans to open a campus on French or other overseas soil too.

One institution, however, has expressed its interest in the offer – Warwick University.

A spokesperson told CNBC: “Last week we were delighted to be able to host a significant delegation from the leadership of several Parisian universities, and to hear from them about their future plans to work together. We continue to be interested to hear how those plans evolve and how they might also involve partner universities from across Europe.”

So what are Oxford’s plans during this crucial transition period between the U.K. and Europe? While Oxford’s Rouse will not disclose the university’s other plans to counteract Brexit’s effects, he did say that Oxford has appointed a chancellor for Brexit in December – Professor Alastair Buchan and that the No. 1 university it’s still determined to “make sure we still have access to research funding that we currently do.”

He would only say that the university has appointed a chancellor for Brexit – Professor Alastair Buchan got the job in December — and that it is still determined to “make sure we still have access to research funding that we currently do.” He reiterated that that will “absolutely not [happen] via an overseas campus.”

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