Leading academics from across the UK have announced their support of Britain continuing its membership of the EU, just weeks after the NUS underlined its support.
Speaking to The Guardian this week, Vice-Chancellors, UK academics, and research scientists have described the possibility of leaving the EU as potentially damaging to the ability of UK universities to conduct high-quality research, maintain their global reputation, attract top research talent from around the world and would ultimately point to funding cuts.
Advocates of leaving the EU are less despondent, however, suggesting that funding shortfalls created by the UK voting i against EU membership in the referendum would be made up by way of the savings made through the non-continuation of payments to the international organisation. One advocate for a so called ‘Brexit’ pointed to Switzerland and Norway, who continue to pay for pooled academic resources.
The move could have a significant impact on UEA as the university receives large amounts of research funding from the EU, and infrastructure investment from the European Regional Development Fund, with the new Enterprise Centre being partially paid for by the fund.
In addition to the research benefits, students greatly benefit from the freedom of movement the EU offers, with more than 20,000 students and staff having studied or worked abroad under the Erasmus scheme, including close to 15000 undergraduates.
UEA’s Vice-Chancellor, David Richardson has previously expressed his desire for the UK to remain within the EU. Speaking to Universities for Europe in September he stated: “The EU funding is vital… It represents 15% of the total research funding [at UEA] and supports some world class research”.
He also argued that Britain’s membership to the EU was important for students: “Students need to have a global experience in an increasingly globalised world”.
Richardson’s comments are out of character as he has previously stated that he does not believe universities should intervene in political matters.
Richardson is not alone in airing his views on the EU. Speaking to the Guardian, Sir Steve Smith, Vice-Chancellor of Exeter University, said: “Leaving would be a disaster. Of course, it would damage UK research and universities in terms of attracting the best staff, students and funding. But to be honest, that’s not the biggest issue.
“The most successful knowledge economy is where people publish together with people in other countries. EU membership makes that immeasurably easier. Ultimately, it’s about the quality of the work.
“Even if you could make up the funding shortfall from leaving the EU, you would be running counter to the way the world knowledge economy is moving”.
According to Universities UK leaving the EU would have a significant impact on the academic makeup of institutions. They argue that more than 15% of teaching and research staff at Britain’s 132 universities are non-British EU nationals, including some of the most highly regarded researchers in the country.