Fine Gael MEP Brian Hayes today called on Universities and higher education colleges in Northern Ireland to produce an independent assessment of what Brexit would mean for the entire third level sector in the north.
“This debate is already underway in the UK. The implications for British universities if Britain decides to leave the European Union have been estimated to be close to €7billion. That’s because Britain receives more funding from EU research programmes – then any other member state.
“The loss of research funding as a consequence of Britain leaving could have significant implications for universities and colleges in Northern Ireland.
“The UK is renowned for having some of the top universities in the world, especially in the area of research, however EU membership has played a crucial role in helping the UK to become world leaders.
“Many academics and scientists fear that cutting funding will lead to making recruiting and retaining top academic talent a major problem. More importantly it will make cross-border academic and scientific collaboration on which research thrives, far more difficult.
“The UK has been the biggest recipient of EU research grants. Over the last 7 years of the EU funding programme, the UK has won 15.5% of the sums awarded which equates to roughly €7bn euro. Last year alone they were awarded £687m of EU research funding.
“It would also mean losing out on the prestigious European Research Council programme. Each one of these ECR projects is worth between €1.5 and €2.5 million and involves a team of top scientists collaborating across different member states of the EU.
“Students in the UK would also no longer benefit from the EU freedom of movement rules which allow EU students to study or work at universities under the Erasmus programme.
“One of the most positive aspects of Northern Ireland is a very high standard of education, especially in the third level sector. Research and partnerships between other EU universities is crucial for that success. Leaving the EU would create new uncertainly for education and undermine a winning formula in how best to draw down new funding for research. It would also make partnership between universities on the island of Ireland more difficult.
“Universities north and south of the border have long-established ties and continue to work together effectively. In 2012, Queen’s University Belfast joined UCD and TCD as partners to create the All-Island Innovation Academy to develop stronger cross-border research collaboration and student mobility. The universities have also worked together on EU funding applications. Keeping these partnerships is crucial to our academic expertise.”