Here is the statement from the seven national academies of the UK on the day that that UK government set in train the process of leaving the European Union.
Last November, the British Academy provided written evidence to the British Parliament, including an assessment of the impact on UK Higher Education of leaving the EU. Here are a few points taken from that document:
- The UK is currently underinvesting in research and innovation compared to its main competitors, and European funding makes a significant contribution. This is particularly the case in the humanities and the social sciences; from 2007 to 2015, for example, UK-based researchers in this area won over €626 million (just over a third of all total funding available in the humanities and social sciences) from Starting, Consolidator and Advanced Grants from the European Research Council (ERC). One of those was grants mine, and it made possible all the work in Bénin which you have been reading about in this blog. It probably also helped the Leverhulme Trust decide to award me the grant to work on cowrie shells.
- A negative rhetoric towards ‘expertise’ has been developing. One famous instance was the justice secretary’s comment that the people of the UK have had enough of experts. The British Academy notes that “Such rhetoric can create an environment that is understandably perceived as less conducive, less welcoming and more restrictive to academic freedom, enterprise and endeavour. As the UK withdraws from the EU, the higher education sector can ill afford a growing reputation, whether real or perceived, as one that does not acknowledge positively, respect and support academic expertise and scholarship”.
- Almost 50% of UK academic papers are written with an international partner, of which currently 60% are with EU partners. EU nationals make up 16% of the UK-based academic workforce. The ten higher education institutions that do best in the Research Excellence Framework employ 125% more researchers from non-UK EU countries than the next best ten institutions.
- EU students are an important part of the university scene. They make up 5.5% of the entire student body; in particular postgraduate research students from non-UK EU countries account for 13.7% of postgrads. The rhetoric on international students has become increasingly divisive and self-defeating for the UK’s position in the world, and its ability to maximise opportunities for able students and staff; a welcoming and cosmopolitan atmosphere is needed to attract overseas students, European or from the rest of the world.
- The ERC would be a considerable attraction for UK-based researchers to bid for and, if successful, to leave the UK to go somewhere within the EU or an associated country. If the UK came to an agreement with the rest of the EU on EEA status, much of this would be mitigated. The crux of this, however, depends on freedom of movement, which in the current climate appears at best far from certain.
Clearly there are some difficult negotiations ahead for the UK government, and this has been known from some time. If you are interested in more reading along this vein then check out the British Academy’s notes on what they feel should be the UK’s negotiating objectives for the withdrawal from the EU.