We support the UK’s continued membership of the European Union. We believe that within the global academic community, greater impact will be achieved by the Northern Ireland and other UK universities, institutes, researchers, academics and students through full and active participation in the policy formulation, networking and collaborative higher education and research frameworks established within the EU.
EU students and staff at our universities help to foster an international, outward-looking culture that in turn provides local students with a university experience that prepares them for an ever more globalised world. More than 200,000 UK students have studied and worked abroad through the Erasmus exchange programme in the past 10 years. Northern Ireland has received more than double the overall funding per capita under Erasmus than the UK as a whole. Students who did an Erasmus placement have been shown to be 50 per cent less likely to experience long-term unemployment. More than 125,000 EU students are currently studying at UK universities.
Investment in research and in enhancing opportunities for students is vitally important for the long-term prosperity of Northern Ireland and the UK as a whole.
Working together, UK and European researchers pool their resources, expertise, data and infrastructure to achieve more together than they could do alone. Most of today’s major challenges are global and not solely national. In the EU, researchers can collaborate more easily to develop solutions on an international scale, making the most of Europe’s diversity to achieve greater results. Research involving international collaborators has been shown to have nearly 50 per cent more measurable impact than research done at a national level. The EU produces more than a third of the world’s scientific output – 34 per cent more than the US, and that gap has grown by 4 per cent over the past six years, according to the latest Unesco data.
The EU has allocated 8 per cent of its budget into the multinational research programme Horizon 2020 (€80bn from 2014 to 2020). Northern Ireland researchers work within Horizon 2020 with partners from across Europe. Freedom of movement and a common legislative framework help to make cross-border collaboration much easier. These European-led projects also attract leading research teams from around the world as secondary partners, increasing UK global networking. From 2007 to 2013, the EU science programme involved 170 countries worldwide. EU funds now make up 17 per cent of the total science research grants in UK higher education institutes. Most importantly, 73 per cent of the increase in HEI science funding from 2007 to 2014 can be assigned to EU sources.
We believe that it is in the interests of higher education and research in Northern Ireland, and in enhancing the current and future opportunities for our students and graduates, for the UK to remain an enthusiastic and influential member of the EU.
Although we are all members of the Royal Irish Academy, this letter, from its Northern Ireland members, is being written in our individual capacity.
John D Brewer
Bruce M.S Campbell
John Gerard Doyle
Marie T. Flanagan
David N. Livingstone
John V McCanny
Paula J. Reimer
Richard Boyden Warner