EU Referendum: Brexit ‘will not damage UK research’

Blog: Universities would be stronger outside the EU, argues Angus Dalgleish

June 9, 2016

It is clear that the majority of academics at British universities are in favour of staying in the European Union, and this has been led by numerous public letters from vice-chancellors and fellows of the Royal Society. 

They all argue that science funding and education opportunities would be worse if Britain was to leave the EU. It would, however, appear that the strongest proponents for staying in the EU are in receipt of significant funding from the EU competitive funding framework grants and expect to do well in the forthcoming Horizon 2020 funding. 


Feature: scholars assess the arguments for leaving the EU


They point out that Britain does better in competitive research grants than it contributes and that this is the main reason for not wanting to leave. This, however, overlooks the contribution we make to the structural framework fund and the very small amount that we receive back. It also assumes that EU funding is going to grow more than our own government- and charity-based sources. 

I do not believe that science would suffer from Brexit, as European collaboration in science was been in place long before the post-Lisbon Treaty EU.

Examples abound, such as CERN, the European Molecular Biology laboratories, the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer and the European Space Agency. It is a myth to think that if we left the EU we wouldn’t be part of these great collaborations, which already include many countries that are not in the EU, such as Switzerland, Norway and Israel. 

Much is also made of the fact that opportunities for students to travel and study elsewhere in Europe would be reduced if we left the EU, but I seriously doubt that this would make any difference.  Indeed, with regards to education, there is a negative side to being in the EU in that it discriminates against other students coming here from non-EU countries. 

Another reason why we may be better off outside the EU, from a university point of view, is the insidious use of Jean Monet chairs to politicise universities and push EU principles. To my mind, this is a contradiction in terms as universities should be bastions of freedom of thought and speech. These chairs come with funding way in excess of many other funded positions and are, I believe, clearly political. 

Politicising universities always ends in disaster. 

It is worth remembering that of the nine top universities in Europe, seven are in the UK, one is in Switzerland, which is not in the EU, and the other is in Sweden. In all aspects, Britain is a world leader in science and research and this will not change if we leave the EU political union; fears that we would lose our influence, I believe, are greatly overdone. Notably, the UK has more Nobel laureates than any other European country. 

It is important not to get bogged down in details as to whether researchers or individual universities would lose money from EU funding if we leave the political union. The overall issues are far more important and serious. If we remain in the EU we will, whatever has been promised, be tied into an ever closer political and economic union. The EU has therefore become a threat, not only to our democracy but also to our economic wellbeing.

We can no longer justify the billions we pay to be a member. Uncontrollable immigration is putting intolerable pressure on school places, the NHS and infrastructure and reducing employment and wages. 

The biggest losers from all of this are the young, being fed propaganda – Soviet style – from primary school through to secondary school, and now universities.

It would appear that the visionary warnings of the future, so brilliantly portrayed in Brave New World,  Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm, have been taken as a blueprint by the EU – and not as a warning of what to avoid.

Angus Dalgleish is professor of oncology at St George's University of London. 

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Angus Dalgleish statement points out one obvious issue: the NHS mental health program is chronically underfunded.

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