Concerns have been raised that collaboration projects at universities are at risk of falling apart due to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
Sally Hunt, generally secretary of the University and College Union (UCU), told The Independent: “Without a deal, funding streams will be at risk and any longer term planning will take place without our involvement”, after Dominic Raab disclosed the government’s contingency plan in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
“This risks leaving research projects and collaborations on hold or collapsing all together”.
She warned Brexit is the “biggest challenge facing higher education”.
Since February, the EU’s Horizon 2020 research programme revealed a 24.22% drop in funding provided to UK higher education. Universities UK, a pressure group representing British universities, said research funding had lost £121 million.
Critics have argued the “prolonged uncertainty” caused by Theresa May’s negotiations has heightened fears of academics.
Mrs Hunt capitalised on this point providing evidence to show that 17% of EU staff in UK universities have quit following the Brexit vote.
She continued: “We probably did not expect to find ourselves in a situation almost two years later where those who pushed hardest for Brexit have abdicated any responsibility for dealing with its difficulties and there is now talk of a ‘no-deal Brexit’”.
“A no-deal Brexit would also mean freedom of movement would no longer apply, leaving EU staff and students in the lurch”.
The Independent has highlighted more than 2,300 EU academics based in UK universities have resigned, a 10% rise in the 2,130 resignations seen in 2015-16. A YouGov poll, carried out by UCU before the triggering of Article 50, showed three-quarters of EU academics considered leaving their posts, leaving UK higher education.
Additionally, a freedom of information request by the Liberal Democrats to 105 universities found the University of Oxford saw 230 departures – the most number of departures than any other institution.
However, the university emphasised its recruitment of EU staff were similar to the amount of staff leaving.
Reiterating this point, a spokesman for the University of Oxford said: “The status of colleagues from other parts of the EU has been a major concern for the university and we have called for clear commitments on this issue to reassure staff and students who are already here or hoping to join us.
“The recent joint report on Brexit negotiations confirmed the rights of academics and other staff currently in the UK but the university will continue to call for a free flow of academic talent to and from the EU in the final Brexit settlement.”
Westminster has guaranteed funding will continue until the end of the decade for research projects, with Theresa May stating the government’s willingness to produce “an appropriate contribution” to the next round of funding, lasting from 2021-27, estimated to be a minimum of €1.3 billion, in exchange for a “suitable level of influence”.