Northern Ireland academics warn on Brexit

Letter to Times Higher Education from members of Royal Irish Academy says province’s universities have benefited greatly from UK being in EU

June 17, 2016
Queen's University Belfast campus building
Queen's University Belfast

Thirty Northern Ireland members of the Royal Irish Academy have expressed support for the campaign for the UK to remain within the European Union, citing the damage they say could be done to universities in the province were the UK to leave.

In a letter to Times Higher Education, the signatories pay particular praise to the Erasmus+ student exchange programme, not only for its ability to “foster an international, outward looking culture” and decrease the likelihood of unemployment for its participants, but also for its great financial benefits.

They add that Northern Ireland has received “more than double the overall funding per capita under Erasmus than the UK as a whole”.

They further value the EU for fostering a collaborative approach to research, noting that “research involving international collaborators has been shown to have nearly 50 per cent more measurable impact than research done at a national level”.

With 62 per cent of UK scientific outputs now being classed as international, according to figures from Unesco, they state that “working together, UK and European researchers pool their resources, expertise, data and infrastructure to achieve more together than they could do alone”.

They also point to the scientific contributions made by the EU, which produces “over a third of the world’s scientific output – 34 per cent more than the US”, a figure they say has been growing in recent years.

The academics also raise concerns over the funding that would be lost to universities in Northern Ireland in the event of Brexit.

“EU funds now make up 17% of the total science research grants in UK Higher Education Institutes (HEIs). Most importantly, a 73% of the increase in HEI science funding from 2007-14 can be assigned to EU sources,” the letter states.

The letter was written following a roundtable meeting organised by the Royal Irish Academy and the British Academy to consider the implications of a potential UK withdrawal from the EU on universities in Northern Ireland.

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