Academics and vice-chancellors from the universities of Oxford and Cambridge warn a so-called hard Brexit would be a "disaster" for higher education due to reduced funding and the unwillingness of students within the EU to study in the UK.

Addressing a House of Commons Education Select Committee held at the University of Oxford, Oxford Brookes' Vice Chancellor Alistair Fitt told MPs that Brexit "would probably be the biggest disaster for the university sector for many years."

Oxford University's incoming Head Of Brexit Strategy, Professor Alastair Buchan, also warned Brexit could result in UK universities losing their status as some of the best universities in the world.

"Our problem is the Manchester United problem," said Buchan, according to The Guardian. "Every student and every staff member that comes to Oxford is a benefit for this country, because we recruit quality, people that play in the top league. We need to be leading, and we have been leading as universities in the past 10, 20 years. Thirty or 40 years ago we weren't, when we joined the EU. To lose that would be absolutely shooting ourselves in the foot – we must not do that."

University of Cambridge Professor Catherine Barnard said applications from other EU member states had fallen by 14% since the referendum result. When asked why they didn't take up a place, some apparently stated concerns about "anti-immigration sentiment."

Academics and higher education bodies have overwhelmingly been in the "Remain" camp and some were mocked when lecturers were offered counselling to help them cope with Brexit-related grief, The Express reported.

"Universities in other member states see Brexit as an opportunity to undercut," warned Barnard.

"It's a tall poppy – we are the tall poppy, we get more ERC [European Research Council] funding than any other member state, we are seen as the best. Germany is number two, significantly behind in terms of funding, and they want some of that action."

Cambridge University punting Mathematicians' bridge
Students from the rest of the EU are less inclined to apply for places at world-renowned Cambridge University since the Brexit vote claims a professor Wikipedia/chensiyuan