Britain's vote to leave the European Union has left the country's universities with a problem to solve - How to plug a funding gap and maintain status if the wealth of students from across the EU slows to a dribble.

Before the June 23 referendum backed a British exit, or Brexit, the heads of about 80 percent of British universities issued a joint appeal to "Remain" in the 28-country bloc.

Since the vote, the same questions are being asked in universities and colleges across the nation: what’s going to happen now? What does Brexit mean for us? The simple, but unhelpful, answer is that we don’t know; universities have been trying to calm their overseas students and to reassure applicants from abroad that nothing will change - at least for now because the process of leaving the EU is expected to take at least two years.

No one knows how leaving will affect higher education - Universities should be carefully analysing their dependency on EU policies, funding and associations, which are likely to affect areas such as student recruitment, research projects and investment programmes

According to the Complete University Guide, a publisher of university league tables, one in three students studying for a first degree at the universities of Essex and Kent, for example, are international students.

Universities can and must be part of the response, playing prominent roles in local economic and community development programmes. This is especially true of those directed towards growing the skills of local workforces and fostering opportunities through locally focused enterprise, innovation and productivity.