On March 23, EI affiliates the Association of University Teachers (AUT) and the University and College Lecturers’ Union (NATFHE) organised a conference on “Brain Drain” as the final stage of a two-year project on the subject, which had its origins within the EI’s higher education debates.
The event attracted 80 participants from the two unions, other teacher unions, NGOs and government departments. After recalling the different causes of brain drain and its acceleration in a globalised context of the commodification of higher education, a stimulating debate took place focusing on actions to be taken in the future at both national and international levels. The role which could be played by diaspora was also highlighted. The project has strongly asserted the right of academics to migrate for work and study, but urges that governments have a responsibility to address the negative effects of brain drain. The conclusions of the project include calls for the development of institutional links and for unions in the industrialised world to form partnerships with their colleagues in Africa to build the capacity of African trade unions to tackle the issue with their own governments. The project is the only one of its kind which has been run on the initiative of EI affiliates in higher education, although good work on the migration of school teachers has been done in recent years, in particular by the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) in the UK. On 1 June, the NATFHE and the AUT will merge to form the University and College Union (UCU). It is hoped that the work on brain drain will be carried forward in both the UCU and Education International, including the deepening of the subject at EI’s forthcoming 5th World Congress in Berlin in 2007.