Academic Brexodus? Brexit and the dynamics of mobility and immobility among the precarious research workforce

Aline Courtois, Marie Sautier

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7 Citations (SciVal)


The article contributes to the emerging literature on the intersection of academic mobility and precarity by examining the impact of the 2016 Brexit referendum result on the mobility and immobility projects of migrant academics on temporary contracts. We draw on 22 interviews conducted with early-career researchers in the UK and Switzerland. We examine how the Brexit process threatened participants’ sense of citizenship and belonging, heightening their sense of vulnerability both as migrants and as temporary workers, sometimes making immobility the only viable option. We show how it made visible hidden hierarchies and fault lines, prompting unequal strategies as researchers struggled to maintain their prerogatives as members of their communities. Passport privilege and the ‘good migrant’ figure emerged as central to these individualised strategies. The article challenges the framing of academic mobility as a natural and beneficial career move for early-career researchers grappling with the added uncertainties caused by Brexit.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)639-657
Number of pages19
JournalBritish Journal of Sociology of Education
Issue number4
Early online date19 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This publication benefited from the support of the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES – Overcoming vulnerability: Life course perspectives (NCCR LIVES), which is financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation (grant number: 51NF40-185901); and from the support of the ESRC/HEFCE Centre for Global Higher Education as well as funding from the University College London Institute of Education Seed Funding programme for the project ‘Brexit and higher education in the UK and Europe: Towards a cross-country investigation’ led by Prof. Simon Marginson.

Funding Information:
The authors are grateful for the financial assistance received from the Swiss National Science Foundation, ESRC/HEFCE and UCL IOE. We would also like to thank Dr Aniko Horvath, Dr Benjamin Bowman and the anonymous reviewers for their helpful and supportive comments on previous versions of the manuscript.


  • Academic precarity
  • Brexit
  • academic mobility
  • citizenship
  • migrant academics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science


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