UK universities call for Johnson’s support on funding, research and visas

UUK and Russell Group issue appeals after former shadow HE minister’s victory in Tory leadership race

July 23, 2019
Boris Johnson
Source: iStock

The UK’s universities are calling on Boris Johnson for support after he won the race to become Britain’s next prime minister.

Mr Johnson scored a decisive victory over Jeremy Hunt in the Conservative Party leadership election, with 92,153 votes, against Mr Hunt’s 46,656.

Universities UK is calling on the new PM to “cement the world-leading reputation of our universities”.

Alistair Jarvis, UUK’s chief executive, said he hoped Mr Johnson will “seize two early opportunities” to support universities.

Firstly, he should “make good on his promise” to support improved post-study work visas, Mr Jarvis said.

This would help UK universities to “remain internationally competitive in attracting the international students who deliver such benefits to the economy, local communities and enrich our university campuses”, he added.

The decision to abolish post-study work visas was taken in 2012 when Theresa May was home secretary.

International student recruitment has since stagnated, with key global rivals such as the US and Australia providing more generous offers on post-study work than the UK.

A proposed amendment to the immigration bill, championed by the new PM’s brother and former Conservative universities minister, Jo Johnson, and Labour MP Paul Blomfield, would see the return of post-study work visas.

Secondly, if Mr Johnson is “politically tempted to cut tuition fees” – following the recommendations of England’s Augar review – he should only do so if he can “guarantee the replacement funding” needed by universities, said Mr Jarvis.

The Russell Group, which represents 24 leading UK universities, took to Twitter to call on Mr Johnson to help ensure research collaborations with EU partners “can continue after Brexit”.

Such partnerships are feared to be under threat, especially in a no-deal Brexit.

“Seeking ambitious association agreements to EU research programmes like Horizon Europe would send a clear message that Mr Johnson wants to boost our position as a world leader in research and innovation,” the Russell Group tweeted.

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