EU universities must not ‘punish’ UK for Brexit vote

Research league calls for funding decision makers to see UK partners as desirable

July 14, 2016
Man carrying a European Union (EU)-branded umbrella
Source: Getty

British universities should not be viewed by European partners as a “risk” to research projects, the League of European Research Universities (Leru) has said.

UK universities will continue to be “indispensable” collaborators despite the EU referendum result, it added.

The statement comes after anecdotal evidence emerged that UK researchers are being blocked from applying for EU funds.

Leru said that while it regretted the UK’s decision to leave the EU, European universities must not disrupt collaborations.

“It is completely inappropriate to respond to the referendum by taking decisions that punish UK researchers,” it said in the statement released on 14 July.

Leru added that in terms of the country’s participation in Horizon 2020 “nothing has changed” and that cooperation will remain an “essential” part of the UK’s global relationships.

“In the wake of the referendum, we strongly affirm that UK universities are, and will continue to be, indispensable collaborative partners,” it said.

It added: “We call upon those who review funding applications to see the engagement of UK partners as a desirable feature of projects, rather than a risk or compromise.”

Meanwhile, Caroline Lucas, the Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion, has called for the government to make the UK an associate in EU research programmes.  

In an early-day motion for discussion in the House of Commons, she said the government should “act urgently” to reassure EU bodies that it will still continue to support its research programmes.

Giving the UK associate status in EU research programmes, as is the case for Norway, Tunisia and Turkey for example, would provide “confidence and certainty” for UK academics, she said.

She noted “deep concern” over the “growing number of reports of British academics and scientists being asked to leave EU-funded projects or step down from leadership roles” thanks to funding fears in the wake of the referendum result.

Jo Johnson, minister for universities and science, said this week that there is as yet no “hard evidence” that UK academics are being given the cold shoulder from their European colleagues.

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