EU exit would leave UK universities ‘in thrall to US model’

If the UK were to leave the European Union, the nation’s universities would be left in even greater “ideological thrall” to the US.

October 20, 2013

That is the argument set out by Sir Peter Scott, professor of education studies at the Institute of Education, University of London, in his contribution to a series of essays on the implications that leaving the EU would have for the UK.

The collection of essays is published tomorrow by Regent’s University London under the titleThe UK and Europe – Costs, Benefits, Options.

It includes contributions looking at a range of sectors across the economy and society, from Sir John Gieve (former deputy governor at the Bank of England), Sir Konrad Schiemann (former UK judge at the European Court) and Rob Wainwright (director of Europol).

Sir Peter’s chapter on higher education says that the benefits to UK universities of EU membership are “indirect – but nevertheless substantial”.

The former Times Higher Education Supplement editor writes that EU withdrawal “would tend to confirm the ‘Mid-Atlantic’ status of UK higher education, as a system in ideological thrall to US higher education models”.

And he warns that “although participation in Erasmus and other European programmes would continue, the imbalances in student flows would remain and probably increase, perhaps intensifying the simmering resentment that UK universities are losing more than they are gaining from these programmes”.

Sir Peter continues that “it is also difficult to imagine that UK universities would continue to be able to ‘punch above their weight’ in terms of access to European research funding, because the remaining EU Member States would be unlikely to tolerate a non-EU member securing disproportionate advantages”.

He also predicts that “although the UK could continue to be part of the Bologna process, in a peripheral role it would no longer enjoy the enhanced status of a ‘founding member’”.

A separate essay on European research funding and UK research by Joanna Newman,director of the UK Higher EducationInternational Unit, says that European research programmes “contribute a myriad of benefits to UK institutions that are of considerable importance in maintaining the UK’s competitiveness” and have “become a vital part of the UK research landscape”.

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