The Brain Drain

What is a brain drain? It is where we lose our talent overseas to pastures new. For them to follow new opportunities and possibly earn more money.

It is feared that Brexit is likely to cause talented and educated people to leave this country. These will include EU nationals who fear increased insecurity in the UK. This could create difficulties for the NHS as well as other parts of the economy and thereby British life as a whole. But is this phenomena something new? Has it happened before?

Talented people have always been in demand. For centuries, artists, musicians and scientists travelled Europe in search of patrons and a form of ‘internationalism’ became familiar. The modern age has further refined and extended this pattern. After the Second World War, technological advances demanded a highly educated workforce. The ‘space race’ and the ‘cold war’ combined to make America an attractive place to study and work. And it soon reached the stage where various countries had to actively try to lure graduates back home. Of course, one country’s gain can be another country’s loss; International studies now show the devastating effects the loss of educated young people has on developing countries when they have been tempted abroad. The current political climate has therefore made people fear that this same thing is going to happen to us, even as one now fully developed. The ‘Brexit’ vote seems to be tempting EU nationals back home because of the uncertainty over their legal status here. Scientists have been quoted as saying that so much of their work in now done in cooperation with European colleagues that they fear for the future. At least one major ‘British’ orchestra has said it might have to disband because such a large proportion of its members are now from Europe. Stephen Hawking – the well known scientist – has been quoted as saying that the referendum result was in some senses a vote against elites. The trouble is that if that elite includes highly skilled doctors, artists and musicians, then we will all suffer.

So after benefiting from technological and artistic advances for so long, are we about to suffer a new ‘Brain Drain’ – brought about by the democratic expression of our discontent with the status quo? Are we losing all this talent because of a single political decision? Will we now become an intellectually and artistically poorer country because of our departure from Europe?
Well, not necessarily. There is a strong argument for recognising, nurturing, and rewarding home grown talent. Our top universities have just been voted the best internationally; our theatres and galleries are as good as any; and the NHS is, despite its many problems, still the envy of many countries. In a perfect world we will retain all the talent we currently have, but there are plenty of opportunities for a new generation of talent here and should remember how to value them too, whatever our politics.

See more by

I'm semi-retired after a successful and much enjoyed career in education. Funnily enough, my last job was as a tutor for OOL. I taught on courses providing professional training for school support staff, as well as A level English Literature and English Literature GCSE. I've had an interesting career, in schools, colleges, adult education, the Arts and a few other bits and bobs. At one stage I was also a local authority inspector. Now I'm a school governor, and am enjoying watching my young grandchildren go through their own first experiences of school. Through these articles I hope to keep you up to date with different aspects of education news – and also to keep you interested!

Stay Connected