Organisations representing universities and students have joined the campaign for the UK to remain in the European Union, while a group of pro-EU scientists has also set out its arguments.
Megan Dunn, president of the National Union of Students, and Janet Beer, vice-chancellor of the University of Liverpool and vice-president of Universities UK, have both joined the board of Britain Stronger in Europe – the national “in” campaign that launched today.
Ms Dunn, writing in The Independent, highlighted student mobility arising from the EU’s Erasmus+ programme and also said: “The EU supports our education sector in Britain and ploughs close to a billion pounds a year into higher education funding and research alone. There are students up and down the country today benefiting directly from the courses and resources that come with this money.
“This income is increasingly important. EU funding now provides an additional 15 per cent on top of the UK government’s own science and research budget. If we sleepwalked out of the EU, this funding – or at the very least our influence over it – would be at risk.”
Professor Beer said: “Being in Europe means we can achieve greater impact from our ground-breaking research, improving people's lives through advances and discoveries. Pooling resources, expertise and data, we can achieve more together than we could alone.”
Meanwhile, Scientists for EU has announced its advisory board, which includes Lord Rees, the astronomer royal; Sir Tom Blundell, president of the Science Council; and Dame Anne Glover, the former chief scientific adviser to the European Commission president.
Mike Galsworthy, Scientists for EU director, said: “Unfortunately, there are some who are circulating the claim that leaving the EU would make no difference to our participation in the EU science programme. Their rationale is that non-EU countries like Switzerland, Norway and even Israel buy into the EU science programme from outside.”
But he argued that “non-EU countries have no automatic entitlement to the programme, rather they negotiate a deal…The UK has now just pipped Germany as the largest player on the EU science programme. There are clear political and practical reasons why this could not continue if the UK were to be outside the EU.”
The UK Independence Party has argued that if the UK left the EU, it could reinvest the money the country currently allocates to EU research programmes to its own research and that UK universities would be able to charge continental European students full overseas tuition fees.