Brexit: university leaders call for research funding guarantees

4 Jan 19

Politicians need to guarantee that EU research funding will be replaced following Brexit, university leaders have urged.

In an open letter to MPs they warned that a no deal Brexit could deal a blow to UK higher education that it would “take decades” to recover from.

Professor Dame Janet Beer, president of Universities UK, said Britain’s leading academic reputation must not be compromised by a no deal Brexit. 

“While we welcome the assurances that the government has already provided about the continuation of Horizon 2020 funding in a no deal scenario, it is critical that similar guarantees are extended, without delay, to cover European Research Council and Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) funding,” she said.

“Without cast-iron assurances, world-leading academics and researchers may leave for countries where access to ERC funding is not at risk, and those currently considering relocating to the UK may think again.”

Together, ERC and MSCA funding are worth €1.3bn to the UK over the next two years and funding much vital scientific work, the letter said.

The UK is currently the most successful country at hosting ERC grantees, ahead of Germany, but would become ineligible for the funding in the event of no deal.

Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, president and vice chancellor of the University of Manchester, said: “University research is at the forefront of scientific and medical breakthroughs and many are only possible through EU research collaborations, on projects led by UK universities.

“At the University of Manchester, vital and transformative research programmes risk being disrupted, such as our work on proton-beam therapy for cancer patients, which allows more precise targeting of tumour sites and minimises damage to surrounding tissue, and our Nobel-prize winning work on graphene, the strongest, thinnest and most versatile material ever identified.”

She added that a no deal Brexit would be a serious setback for these fields of endeavour.

Parliamentary debate on the prime minister’s withdrawal agreement will resume on 9 January. The ‘meaningful vote’ on the withdrawal agreement was postponed by the government last month.

  • Vivienne Russell

    Vivienne Russell is managing editor of Public Finance magazine and publicfinance.co.uk

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