Brexit: Universities warn no deal is ‘biggest-ever threat’

lecture Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Universities say that UK research in science and medicine will be harmed by a no-deal Brexit

University heads are warning a no-deal Brexit is “one of the biggest threats” the institutions have ever faced.

Higher education leaders have written to MPs to say it is “no exaggeration” to warn that it would take universities “decades to recover”.

They say it would undermine scientific research and threaten universities’ £21bn contribution to the UK economy.

The government has said its immigration plans will keep universities “open to the talent we need from Europe”.

A joint letter sent to all MPs on behalf of the heads of 150 UK universities says: “Vital research links will be compromised, from new cancer treatments to technologies combating climate change.

“The valuable exchange of students, staff and knowledge would be seriously damaged,” adds the letter from university groups including Universities UK, the Russell Group, Guild HE, Million Plus and University Alliance.

Funding threat or fearmongering?

Dame Janet Beer, president of Universities UK, warned that “time is running out”.

She says that without “cast-iron assurances” about the UK’s access to European research networks, world-leading researchers will be lost to other countries where “funding is not at risk”.

But the journalist and educationalist Toby Young, who says he backs a “clean Brexit”, dismissed the warning as “the usual ultra-Remainer hysteria”, accusing vice-chancellors of “fear-mongering”.

“In the event of a no-deal Brexit, I’m sure the government will use some of that £49bn windfall to compensate British universities for any short-term losses,” said Mr Young, associate editor of the Spectator magazine.

The Russell Group of leading research universities says there has already been a downturn in EU students wanting to study in the UK.

Data from its 24 universities shows a 3% fall in EU students in the current intake – which they believe is because of uncertainty over Brexit.

‘Unrealistic and unsustainable’

The letter warns MPs of the dangers to the UK’s universities if they lose their place in European research networks.

It gives two examples of funding at risk – the European Research Council and Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions – which would be worth £1.2bn to UK institutions over the next two years.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The UK has been among the biggest winners from EU research funding

University leaders say that in the event of a no-deal Brexit, UK institutions would “immediately become ineligible”

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