Little’s not enough

June 16, 2016

James Tooley’s piece on how the UK academy would be better off outside the European Union was interesting (“Even if Brexit means less funding for universities, we should still vote leave”, 2 June).

However, as a fellow research academic, I think that Tooley fails to explore the loss of EU funding opportunities through the European Regional Development Fund and Horizon 2020. So, for example, Newcastle University earns 10 per cent of its research income from Europe, according to the university’s own figures. Where will that lost money come from? Brexit campaigners have spent what would be saved by leaving the EU several times over already – on the NHS, on farming subsidies, on developing the points system immigration policy and all of that. Tooley might suggest that the money will come from US sources or from Commonwealth sources or from China. But US trusts are well known to be highly protectionist; China is facing recession; and the Commonwealth needs to build up its own academic infrastructure.

Perhaps the Brexiteers will come to the rescue and become overnight philanthropists. However, right-wing Conservative policy does not seem to be pushing more money into the UK research council pot – in fact, the research coffers seem to be an ever-diminishing source of funds.

Of course, you could blame everything on those who disagree with you and call the Remain academics a self-interested elite. But I think that’s a strange view of your fellow academics who strive to embrace collaborative research and collaborative partnerships both in Europe and across the world.

What we must not do is create an academic region that deprives itself of research relationships and European research funding on the off chance that we might get more from somewhere else. If people aren’t being philanthropic now, God knows why they will be any more philanthropic in the protectionist Little England of a Brexit future.


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