The best business advice, opinion, news and expertise in Greater Manchester and further afield.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Member Blog: Brexit - Universities facing uncertain times

By Paula Cole, Partner Employment at Squire Patton Boggs

Of all the tweets I saw the morning of June 24th, the one which lingers in my memory was a picture of an empty lecture theatre bearing the caption “meanwhile at the 9am EU law lecture”.
In reality the issues for universities arising from the Brexit vote are much wider than whether they continue to teach EU law as part of their law degree syllabuses.  The issues affect almost every aspect of university life from student numbers (and funding) to staff mobility to EU research funding and collaboration opportunities.

Whatever happens in the long term post Brexit– the biggest issue currently facing universities is the uncertainty and the impact that has the ability of both students and universities to plan for the future.

EU student recruitment
Students are understandably concerned about applying for and starting courses now, which they may not be able to finish or which might cost them significantly more (with no or reduced financial support) before they can graduate. The Higher Educations Statistics Agency (HESA)  reported in 2014/15  that studying in UK universities were 78,435 undergraduate students and 46,230 post-graduate students from the EU (excluding the UK).  This equates to 5.5% of the total student population (8.9% in Scotland where EU students are eligible for free undergraduate education in the same way as Scottish students).  If EU students planning their futures look for more secure and less risky alternatives elsewhere in the EU and consequently do not take up their places for the next academic session – this could leave UK universities with an immediate shortfall (although many of those places will probably be taken up through clearing by UK students, assuming of course they have the academic grades).

Staff mobility
The bigger issue is probably the longer term recruitment of both students and staff.  Approximately 14% of academic staff in UK universities are nationals of other EU member states.  Free movement of workers was probably the key “political” reason for the Brexit vote and will be a fundamental issue in negotiations to secure our Brexit. If ultimately the politicians agree a deal which does not include free movement of workers the reality is that leaving the EU will reduce the numbers of academic staff from elsewhere in the EU coming to the UK due to the challenges (real or imagined) of securing a visa.  True, as with the students, those roles could be backfilled by UK nationals but the question will remain as to whether UK universities are able to attract and retain the brightest and best especially against a background of talented researchers ‘following the money’ to the EU and elsewhere.

Financial impact
Alongside the potential threat to university finances from reduction in student numbers is the far bigger threat from the removal of EU funding, with the BBC recently (on 5 July) reporting that European academic bodies are already pulling back from research collaboration with UK academics due to the uncertainty about what the future may hold.  The decline in EU student numbers  may in any event be overshadowed by the reintroduction of controls on student numbers which may occur if, (as is widely feared) the country goes into recession.  The optomists amongst us might suggest that the Government will redirect some of the money it is no longer paying to the EU into the Higher Education sector but in times of recession, there will be many other claims on that funding (not least the NHS who may not, we now discover, be getting the whole of the EU contributions  but is likely to get at least some of that money).


So the UK Higher Education sector is (like the rest of the UK economy) facing very uncertain times.  The key difference for the sector is that it can’t continue to say, as many businesses are doing, “it is business as usual” unless or until the button is pushed on Article 50. Universities are long term organisations and  no longer  have that  luxury, now that European Academic bodies have effectively pre-empted the Article 50 process and started their own separation process.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Member Blog: Is the North / South divide making a comeback post Brexit?

By Paul Burke, Managing Director of Davenham Asset Finance

A report by Manchester City Council’s Chief Executive, Sir Howard Bernstein, has been leaked recently, revealing that Greater Manchester is set to miss out on £320m after the decision for the UK to leave the EU. 

Pre-Brexit, Greater Manchester was expecting to receive £176m of the European Regional Development Fund and £145m of the European Social Fund up to 2020, an amount that had to be matched by a minimum of 50% non-EU funds, creating a total programme of almost £650m.
Initially, it had been stated that there had been “significant delays” on the funding agreement meaning only £36m of funding had been contracted for Greater Manchester, but after the referendum, the government promised that existing EU funding contracts would be honoured although no new ones would be signed.

The Interim mayor for Greater Manchester, Tony Lloyd has urged the government to "replace funding" lost through Brexit, and to “live up to the promises made during the referendum campaign” and rightly so we say. A spokesperson for HM Treasury has reassured that the government has ensured that EU funding is directed towards the UK's economic priorities, like the Northern Powerhouse.

However, further reports seem to show that this is far from the case, with North West listed companies losing around £1.4bn due to Brexit uncertainty, according to a recent article by Bdaily North West. It’s bad news for large corporates as the largest North West firms are believed to be the worst hit, as the 15 FTSE 250 companies in the region collectively losing £1.2bn.
Fortunately, despite ongoing market uncertainty, a number of North West-based companies have demonstrated strong trading, proving that the Northern Powerhouse is still fully intact.

Being based in Manchester and proudly part of the ‘Northern Powerhouse’, the team at Davenham are on hand to provide effective asset finance and refinance solutions and work in partnership to advise on any funding requirements / issues which may have occurred as a result of the decision; see our blog on Brexit. To speak to a member of our friendly and experienced team, call 0161 832 8484.

For the source of this blog, and to learn more, visit:

Friday, 5 August 2016

Member Blog: What you actually need to do if you're hacked

By Farooq Shah, Territory Account Manager at F-Secure UK & Ireland

Employees, even well-informed security conscious individuals, are often unprepared to deal with security issues. It can even be difficult to know whether they’re compromised, or just experiencing some kind of IT problem. And according to Janne Kauhanen, an expert with F-Secure’s Cyber Security Services, it’s pretty common for people to panic and stress out when they think they’ve been hacked. They can even make problems worse by not dealing with the situation correctly.

So before people freak out and throw their computer out the window or something, they should consider following this plan. Calmly taking these steps to begin limiting the damage and figure out what’s happened will save companies time, money, and headaches.

1. DON’T turn off the computer or device: 
One common mistake many people do, after panicking, is to turn off the device. After all, a compromised device can’t do any real damage without power. But this is something that actually helps attackers.Turning off the power will wipe out any information stored in the devices random access memory (RAM), which can be useful to investigators. “Turning off the computer is like destroying evidence – evidence that can help uncover who the attackers are and what they’ve done,” says Janne. You should also plug-in devices to make sure the battery doesn’t die before investigators have a chance to look at it.

2. TURN OFF your device’s network connections: 
“Physically, if possible,” stresses Janne. While turning off the computer is something that will benefit your adversaries, leaving it connected isn’t really an option. “Your device might be pwned, but at this point, you shouldn’t assume that the attacker has had the opportunity to move laterally through your network. So shutting down network connections will prevent the attacker from using your device to infiltrate deeper into the network.” Here’s a few connections many people use at work:
Wi-Fi
Bluetooth
NFC
Mobile Data Network (remove the SIM card)

3. Stop touching the computer: 
If you’ve followed the first three steps, you’ve accomplished quite a bit. You’ve successfully cut off the attackers from using your device to move through your company’s network. And you’ve done this without destroying evidence that others (such as your company’s CISO or a professional forensic investigator) can use to trace the attack and find out how and when the breach occurred, what the attacker has done, and with any luck, who they are. 

4. Write down what’s happened: 
Try to include as much detail as you can recall. Write down what tipped you off that there was a problem, what you were doing when you noticed there was an issue, what you’ve done since discovering the problem, any mysterious emails or other interactions you might have had recently, whether you’ve used any removable storage devices or other peripherals with your computer etc. “Dates and times of events are particularly important,” says Janne. “Devices contain lots of potential evidence, but keeping track of what happened when will help narrow the scope so everyone can work faster.”

5. Call for help: 
“Now’s the part where you need to get some help,” says Janne. Who to contact will be a bit different for every company. But no matter what, you need to bring this to the attention of more people, whether that be a CISO or an external security consultant.