Family & Education

Universities call to keep European research links

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University leaders in the UK and Europe have signed a joint statement calling for UK universities to remain part of European research schemes after Brexit.

As the UK leaves the European Union, 36 higher education groups have called for a "swift agreement" to allow UK universities to rejoin EU research networks and Erasmus student exchanges.

The UK could pay to join these schemes as associate members.

The CBI business group backed the statement, as did Universities UK.

The statement, issued by representatives of university, research and science groups across Europe, says it would be of "clear mutual benefit" for UK universities to have "full association" with European research projects.

In response, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, said it is "open to collaborating" in EU programmes, "if it's in the UK's interests".

Universities in the UK have been leading partners - and among the biggest financial beneficiaries - of research funded on a European basis, including major science projects.

The next research round, Horizon Europe, will be worth about €100bn (£84bn) - but so far there have been no terms agreed on which UK universities can participate. Countries outside the EU can take part, but the cost and terms of membership have still to be negotiated.

Universities Minister Chris Skidmore has said in the current round of EU research, UK institutions have taken about £5bn of the funding pot.

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The universities' representatives want a deal to be reached by the end of the year on UK participation in research projects.

They also want an agreement to allow the Erasmus student exchanges to continue.

The statement, from UK and European university leaders, says it would be "good for all of us" if UK universities were able to "continue to work together" with their European counterparts.

Sir David Cannadine, president of the British Academy, has written to national academies across Europe to voice the academy's support for "continued participation in European research programmes".

"We also know that to tackle the great challenges of the 21st Century, from climate change to the rise of artificial intelligence, academics will need to collaborate across disciplines and across borders," said Sir David.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has rejected claims that UK students will not be able to take part in Erasmus.

"There is no threat to the Erasmus scheme, and we will continue to participate in it. UK students will continue to be able to enjoy the benefits of exchanges with our European friends and partners," he told the House of Commons last month.

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: "We are open to collaborating with the EU on science and research, including in certain EU programmes, if it's in the UK's interests, and consistent with our vision of the future relationship."

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