Brexit sparks idea for new leadership programme to tackle problems that have revived nationalism and separatism
The University of Oxford will this week become a founding member of a new pan-European network of future leaders aiming to tackle the continent’s problems and “step over” the immediate disruption of Brexit, according to the scheme’s British originator.
Oxford and St Andrews are among 13 elite institutions to have signed up to a scholars programme run by the Europaeum, an association of leading European universities that asks postgraduate researchers to come up with practical solutions to social and political issues such as human trafficking, youth unemployment and regional separatism.
Andrew Graham, a former master of Balliol College, Oxford, said he had the idea for a type of Rhodes scholarship for Europe in the wake of the EU referendum result.
Graham said he found himself “pushing at an open door” when he first proposed the scheme to universities in 2017 and again in his entrepreneurial fundraising efforts to meet the roughly €10,000 cost for each scholar.
“Brexit was absolutely part of it but universities in Helsinki and Madrid and Prague and elsewhere face issues that are just as intractable. There’s the rise of the far right in Germany, the disputes in Catalonia, the tension around migration, and high rates of youth unemployment in places like Greece and Portugal,” Graham said.
“These are European problems, not just EU or eurozone problems alone. But it was Brexit that made me think it was time for something fresh.”
Graham, who worked in Downing Street as an adviser to Harold Wilson, wants the programme to show that universities can act to overcome the issues that provoked Brexit.