Edition 171 - July 2015

Universities for Europe: The case for staying in the EU

On 27 July, Universities UK launched a campaign to prevent a dreaded ‘Brexit’ which would severely limit EU funding for British universities and researchers. The campaign, titled Universities for Europe, was launched at an event at the University College of London (UCL).  Over the coming months, it will present powerful evidence on the benefits of EU membership for the higher education sector and British society as a whole. 

Prime Minister David Cameron is planning to hold a referendum on the UK’s continued membership of the European Union as early as June 2016 (see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, edition May 2015). A “no” vote would see the UK leave the EU and consequently lose out on a number of benefits associated with membership, not the least of which is research funding. Indeed British universities benefit from an astounding GBP 1.2 billion a year (EUR 1.7 billion) in European research funding. Would the British government be able and willing to make up for that amount, were it to fly solo? Other compelling evidence suggests that Britain is a winner when it comes to EU research funds, benefitting more than its fellow member states: British researchers won 20% of the ERC’s flagship advanced grants in 2014

Yet the positives do not tell the whole story, and in order to build a truly compelling case for staying in the Union, Universities for Europe will need to show how the benefits EU membership actually outweigh the (not inconsiderable) costs. It should not be too hard. 

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