Professor Julia Buckingham, Vice-Chancellor and President of Brunel University London, advised a forum of MPs and experts yesterday evening on actions that need to be taken now to ensure stability and reduce uncertainty for universities in light of the transition towards Brexit.
She exposed how it is currently uncertain whether university researchers will be allowed to secure funding and participate fully in EU research framework programmes beyond Brexit in March 2019, and the impact this might have on the attractiveness of UK-based academics as collaborators of choice in research activity.
Professor Buckingham spoke on behalf of Universities UK – the executive heads of universities across the four nations – at a panel debate organised by the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee.
The purpose of the event was to provide a forum for parliamentarians and others to hear from key stakeholders about the Higher Education sector’s priorities and desired outcomes for science and innovation in the Brexit negotiations, and the importance of continued collaboration with the EU post-Brexit.
Representing the concerns of vice-chancellors, Professor Buckingham implored the UK government to:
- signal before the next phase of exit negotiations that it will seek continued UK participation in the remainder of Horizon 2020 – the existing EU-wide research framework programme
- engage fully with EU partners to influence and shape the development of Framework Programme 9, the successor to Horizon 2020 which will largely be planned in the next two years while the UK is still an EU member state
- urgently seek agreement with the European Commission on the residency and work rights of EU nationals currently working in the university sector and their dependents
- confirm that no additional migration barriers will be introduced for EU students and academics for at least 2 years during a post-exit implementation period
- use Brexit as an opportunity to put in place an immigration system that positions the UK as a destination of choice for international talent.
The event, jointly sponsored by Universities UK, the Royal Society and the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), was held in the Houses of Parliament. Chaired by Stephen Metcalfe MP (chair of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee), it also featured as panellists Sir Venki Ramakrishnan (President of The Royal Society), Tom Thackray (Director of Innovation for the CBI) and Sarah Main (Director of CaSE: the Campaign for Science and Engineering).
Joe Buchanunn, Media Relations