EU Referendum

UK and the EU: Education and research

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Stats and facts

Universities in the UK are competing in a global market for research funding, academics and students. They see themselves as being among the best in the world, and crucial to providing knowledge and skills to the economy.

A growing proportion of research is done by academics collaborating across countries. If you look at published research papers, projects where British academics have worked with European counterparts are a fast growing category. In published science research papers, more than half come out of this kind of joint working.

So, it's little surprise that universities are strongly in favour of the right to work and study in different countries which comes with EU membership. And in the last 20 years three million students have been given the chance to study in another member country through a programme funded and coordinated by the European Union.

That is only part of the story, as the number of full-time students from other countries around the world studying for their first degree or a post-grad qualification is far greater than the number of students from within the EU. International students pay much higher fees, whereas a student from inside the EU can take out a tuition fee loan or have their fees paid to study at UK universities.

Student numbers in the UK 2014-15

  • 1,829,195 UK undergraduate and postgraduate students

  • 124,575 Other EU undergraduate and postgraduate students

  • 312,010 Non-EU undergraduate and postgraduate students

  • £10,481m of funding (32% of total) comes from course fees of home and EU students

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What does the EU do?

The EU provides money for a wide range of research. In the last major grant programme UK universities received almost £1bn euros a year.

It sets the broad legal framework for animal research, which is then interpreted by each country.

…and what doesn't it do?

Education is very specific to the culture of each country. It's one of those areas which is left up to individual governments.

The EU for example is not involved in the school systems of any part of the UK.

UK opt-outs of EU rules?

As schools and universities are overseen by governments there are no opt outs of EU rules.

The argument for leaving the EU

The UK has a thriving university sector which competes successfully for students and academics on a global level. Collaboration with other European countries would be unlikely to stop completely as academics increasingly work in networks built around areas of knowledge and interest.

It might prompt higher education to build other global research alliances.

Some of the money the UK currently contributes to the EU could instead be spent directly on research here.

There would be a financial saving too from the tuition fee loans for first degrees or teacher training which EU students can access in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. There has been concern they are less likely to repay. The same goes for Scotland where their fees for a first degree are paid for them. Last year there were 71,000 EU undergraduates studying in the UK.

The argument for staying in the EU

Universities would continue to have access to EU research funding, although it's not possible to predict the future amount.

Being in the EU means students and academics can benefit from systems set up to support co operation and travel. In recent years this has been broadened beyond higher education in a new programme called Erasmus+ which includes training and youth work.

If EU students were charged the same fees as other overseas students then their numbers would probably fall.

Read more:

All you need to know about the UK's EU referendum

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