UK Universities Term No-Deal Brexit ‘Biggest Threat’ over Loss of EU Money, Students
The loss of EU funding and exchange opportunities would jeopardize vital research, the UK higher education leaders have warned.
A total of 150 universities from across the UK have raised alarmed over the massively negative consequences that a possible no-deal Brexit would have on them in terms of lost EU funding, students, and academic exchange opportunities.
With the fate of the UK – EU Brexit deal championed by British Prime Minister Theresa May seeming increasingly gruesome, UK university heads have warned that a hard Brexit scenario is “one of the biggest threats” their institutions have ever faced.
“Vital research links will be compromized, from new cancer treatments to technologies combating climate change,” the UK university heads said in a joint letter to all Members of the British Parliament, as cited by the BBC.
“The valuable exchange of students, staff and knowledge would be seriously damaged,” adds the letter signed by several university groups such as Universities UK, the Russell Group, Guild HE, Million Plus and University Alliance.
The British higher education leaders also underscore that the consequences of a no-deal Brexit would jeopardize the universities’ contribution to the UK economy estimated at GBP 21 billion.
The letter warns the British MPs that if the British universities lose their spots in European research networks, crucial sources of funding would be at risk.
Those include the European Research Council and Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions with a projected worth of GBP 1.2 billion to UK institutions over the next couple of years.
What is more, a wider range of European research funding worth over GBP 90 billion will be at stake after 2020.
The UK universities are therefore asking the British government to guarantee it would replace any research funding that might be lost as a result of a no-deal Brexit.
According to Dame Janet Beer, President of Universities UK, only “cast-iron assurances” about the UK’s access to European research networks would prevent the loss of top researchers to other countries.
The highest education institutions are also worried, however, by the government’s White Paper on migration released before Christmas, which stipulates new restrictions on students from EU countries after Brexit.
The Russel Group warns it would be “unrealistic and unsustainable” for British universities to be able to handle the administrative burden of sponsoring visas for the some 130,000 of their students that come from the EU.
Data from its 24 universities already indicates a 3% decline in the number of EU students believed to result from the uncertainty created by Brexit.
The UK government has promised, however, to keep attracting foreign students with a “light-touch” visa system, with no limit on numbers, and with incentives to work in Britain after graduation. It is also prepared to take on funding existing projects using EU money.
“Science recognizes no borders and the UK has a proud record of welcoming the world’s leading scientists and researchers to work and study here. This will not change when we leave the EU… we are committed to seeking an ambitious future relationship on science and innovation with our EU partners,” a government spokeswoman said.
Journalist and educationalist Toby Young, associate editor of the Spectator magazine, described the warning by British university chiefs as “the usual ultra-Remainer hysteria”, and “fear-mongering”.
“In the event of a no-deal Brexit, I’m sure the government will use some of that GBP 49 billion windfall to compensate British universities for any short-term losses,” he said.
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