Universities say loss of EU funding puts 1,000 Welsh jobs at risk

Vice-chancellors say 60 research projects will come to an end this year without bridging funding

February 7, 2023
Source: iStock

Universities in Wales have warned MPs that important research, innovation and skills projects are facing a “cliff edge” because of the loss of European Union structural funding.

Paul Boyle, chair of the Universities Wales research and innovation network and vice-chancellor of Swansea University, said about 1,000 skilled jobs were at risk.

Universities Wales said £370 million had been invested in university-related projects in the country through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Social Fund (ESF) between 2014 and 2020, and subsequent tail-off years.

Speaking at an event in Westminster today, Professor Boyle was due to tell cross-party MPs that 60 research projects will come to an end this year unless urgent bridging funding is provided.

“Universities play a crucial role in innovation, which in turn leads to the creation of new businesses, new jobs and improving wages,” said Professor Boyle.

“In an increasingly competitive global marketplace, we risk failing to exploit one of this country’s most enduring and internationally recognised strengths.”

MPs were told that continuing European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) projects in Wales for a further 12 months would cost about £71 million.

Professor Boyle said: “Stepping back from the cliff edge would save hundreds of jobs, support a range of cutting-edge innovation projects that are driving economic growth, and provide direct investment in areas that the UK government has stated are at the heart of its own levelling-up ambitions.”

The appeal comes after reports that European funding to some of England’s top institutions has plummeted since Brexit.

The University of Cambridge, which received €483 million (£430 million) over the seven years of the Horizon 2020 EU research funding programme, has not been awarded any funding in the first two years of the new Horizon Europe programme, according to the European Commission.

Meanwhile, funding to the University of Oxford has fallen from €523 million to just €2 million between the two programmes.

Speaking ahead of the event in Westminster, Elizabeth Treasure, chair of Universities Wales, said: “EU structural funds enabled us to build on our research and innovation activity, work collaboratively across institutions and regions, and strengthen the link between skills development and research and innovation.”

She said the loss of these projects would be felt in regional economies across Wales, where they had previously helped to upskill people of all ages and backgrounds.

A previous report revealed that Wales received £2.5 billion in ESIF funds between 2014 and 2020, more than double the amount received by Scotland (£1 billion) and far more on a per capita basis than England (which received £7 billion).

Swansea West MP Geraint Davies said: “These projects are important to our UK ambition to crank up sustainable economic growth, so their sudden loss would be a big blow to our communities our economy and all our longer-term interests.”


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