Friday April 14, 2017

Brexit and Trump could be a boon to Canadian universities

Anti-Brexit protesters hold placards outside Parliament on the day Prime MInister Theresa May announced she triggered the formal process for Britain to leave the European Union. The Brexit vote, according to Marcus Pivato, has had a concrete impact on the ability of British universities to recruit and retain academics and he argues that could be to Canada's benefit.

Anti-Brexit protesters hold placards outside Parliament on the day Prime MInister Theresa May announced she triggered the formal process for Britain to leave the European Union. The Brexit vote, according to Marcus Pivato, has had a concrete impact on the ability of British universities to recruit and retain academics and he argues that could be to Canada's benefit. (Stefan Wermuth/Reuters)

Listen 10:16

Harvard. M.I.T. Cambridge. Oxford. 

Name a prestigious university in the world, and chances are it's in the U.S or the UK. 

For decades those countries have succeeded in attracting high quality researchers and students  — and unless something happens to disrupt that path, they will continue to do so. It's what Marcus Pivato says is a self-reinforcing equilibrium. ​

But in his view, the election of Donald Trump and Brexit are exactly the kind of forces that could disrupt that equilibrium. 

Marcus Pivato

Professor Marcus Pivato argues that in the wake of the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump, Canadian universities have an opportunity they should act on quickly. (provided)

"Suddenly a lot of people are asking questions if they really want to go to the U.S, or even American academics are asking questions about whether they want to remain in the U.S, and likewise in the UK — a lot of people are very very unhappy with these things."

Pivato, a professor of economics at the Université de Cergy-Pontoise, in France argues that the political climate in the U.S and the UK provide Canadian universities with an opportunity they would be wise to act on quickly. 

And he knows it will take a lot of political will and funding. 

"To do this properly you need kind of a big big push all at once. You can't have a piece meal approach where one university does a little bit here and another university does a little bit there. You need a huge extravagant launch of funding all at once to shift the world wide equilibrium."

By Pivato's calculation, his vision could cost the federal government upwards of one billion dollars — but he argues it's money well spent in the long term for all Canadians. 

"I think it pays for itself in the long run. If you look at the U.S and the UK, their economies have benefited quite a lot historically from the fact that they have so many of the world's best researchers and they produce so much of the world's best research."