British university leaders warned on Friday (4 January) that leaving the EU without an official deal would be “one of the biggest threats our universities have ever faced.”
In an open letter to lawmakers, leaders from Universities UK, the Russell Group, Guild HE, Million Plus and University Alliance, which collectively represent more than 150 higher education providers, said a no-deal Brexit could lead to “an academic, cultural and scientific setback from which it would take decades to recover.”
“Our 50,000 EU staff and 130,000 EU students, not to mention the 15,000 UK students studying in Europe, are starting the new year facing significant uncertainty about their futures,” said the letter.
The mobility of students between mainland Europe and the UK that are at stake as the Brexit talks continue. If Brexit Britain crashes out of the EU without a deal, programms like Erasmus+ could end as the EU funding for the scheme would break away.
“Vital research links will be compromised, from new cancer treatments to technologies combatting climate change,” the letter also warned.
British MPs are set to vote on Prime Minister Theresa May’s withdrawal deal with the EU later this month, and defeat would leave the whole process up in the air, raising the chances of leaving without a deal on 29 March.
The university leaders urged the government to “demonstrate the required ambition” to secure a deal.
“We are also seeking confirmation that the government will replace research funding sources from which we may be excluded at the end of March,” it added.
British universities have received €11.4 billion in funding as part of the EU’s Horizon 2020 research programme, which began in 2014.