LONDON -- Academics at the London School of Economics who are foreigners have reportedly been excluded from advising the British government on European Union affairs because of their nationality.
Sara Hagemann, an assistant professor at the London School of Economics, said that the British government had told her that her services, along with other non-United Kingdom colleagues, were no longer necessary because she is a foreigner.
Hagemann, a respected academic who has worked in London, Brussels and Copenhagen, has been with the university’s European Institute for seven years. She hails from Denmark.
— Sara Hagemann (@sarahagemann) October 6, 2016
Nick Clegg, the former deputy prime minister, said that it was “utterly baffling” that the U.K. government was turning down expert advice on Brexit just because of academics' nationalities.
Utterly baffling Govt is turning down this expert advice. Yet more evidence Tories are embracing petty chauvinism over rational policymaking https://t.co/NDkGCQbq3b
— Nick Clegg (@nick_clegg) October 7, 2016
In a statement issued Friday evening, Britain’s Foreign Office (FCO) insisted that “nothing has changed as a result of the referendum. It has always been the case that anyone working in the FCO may require security clearance depending on the nature and duration of their work.”
The statement continued: “Britain is an outward-looking nation and we will continue to take advice from the best and brightest minds, regardless of nationality.”
Their response follows the leak of an internal memo sent to the staff at the LSE from the university’s interim director, Julia Black.
According to the memo, Black said that the Foreign Office had informed them that non-U.K. nationals will be excluded from some consultancy work.
— Bruno Waterfield (@BrunoBrussels) October 7, 2016
"You may have seen reports in the media that the Foreign Office have advised us that they will be issuing tenders to contract for advisory work, but that only U.K. nationals will be eligible to apply,” wrote Black.
"Whilst the Foreign Office has long had a rule restricting the nationality of employees or secondees, the extension of the bar to advisory work seems to be new,” she said.
A university official confirmed British media reports that the British government told the university that the services of the non-U.K. nationals briefing on a Brexit-related project would no longer be required.
There were reports that as many as nine people were affected.
Some have questioned the legality of the reported measures, while other foreign academics voiced concerns about their own government-related research projects.
Have asked @foreignoffice how LSE contract, excluding non-UK nationals, complies with law of public procurement. Let's see what they say.
— David Allen Green (@DavidAllenGreen) October 7, 2016
Staggering: as a French national, I await the letter removing me as a member of the FCO Diplomatic Excellence Panel https://t.co/rgdXWYVaxv
— Philippe Sands (@philippesands) October 7, 2016
This is the second time this week the British government has come under fierce criticism over immigration. Earlier this week, British Home Secretary Amber Rudd said that the government was considering a proposal that would force companies to list the numbers of foreign workers they employ.
Even before these incidents, there has been a sense of deep concern over Brexit within the academic communities in the U.K. Although Britain voted 52 to 48 on June 23 to leave the E.U., the overwhelming majority of those working in the academic community voted to remain.
And there have been anecdotal reports of foreign universities eyeing top talent in the U.K. Indeed, the head of Oxford University recently said that she had concerns that staff may consider jumping ship over fears about future funding following Britain’s exit from the bloc.
Simon Hix, a colleague of Hagemann’s who has been tweeting about her case, jokingly suggested it could be a good time for overseas universities to swoop in and make an offer.
“We're going cheap now!” he said.