University leaders from across Europe have come together in a “turbulent time” to stress the importance of continued higher education collaboration following the UK’s vote to leave the European Union.
Signing a joint statement, the leaders from over 20 countries, including Germany and France, have highlighted the importance of international cooperation and exchange, and insist universities are strongest when they tackle issues collaboratively.
Although they have acknowledged the UK will develop a new relationship with the EU, the signatories have called for continued “research and exchange relationships between Europe’s universities, for the benefit of people across the continent.”
Dame Julia Goodfellow, president of Universities UK and vice-chancellor of the University of Kent, said: “While we know the referendum result will have no immediate effect on the UK’s participation in EU research and exchange programmes, it is important we get long-term guarantees that the UK will continue to benefit from opportunities to collaborate with partners on ground-breaking research.
“We are determined the UK university sector will remain a welcoming destination, open and internationally engaged, and a high-quality partner of choice.”
The statement has come shortly after some of the UK’s top universities reportedly faced issues working with their European partners, including being asked to leave EU-funded projects, in the wake of the referendum result.
According to a confidential survey of the elite Russell Group universities carried out by theGuardian, reports of being asked to pull out of leadership roles came from across the disciplines of the sciences and engineering as EU academics became increasingly worried about financial stability.
The heads of 103 universities had also described being “gravely concerned” about the impact of a UK exit from the EU on the country’s institutions and students in an open letter published by the Independent days before the referendum took place.
In it, they said: “The impact of our universities on our local communities and economy should not be underestimated. Every year, universities generate over £73 billion for the UK economy – £3.7bn of which is generated by students from EU countries, while supporting nearly 380,000 jobs. Strong universities benefit the British people – creating employable graduates and cutting-edge research discoveries that improve lives.”
Rolf Tarrach, president of the European University Association, and one of the signatories of the new joint statement, said: “Given the strength of the UK’s research base, isolating the UK from European cooperation structures would not just have negative consequences for the UK, it would also undermine the profile and impact of European research more widely.
“It is through working together within a united, European knowledge community that universities can achieve the best outcomes and tackle the big challenges.”
The joint statement in full:
We as European university leaders wish to reaffirm our commitment to international cooperation and exchange in this turbulent time for Europe. We are strongest when we tackle issues collaboratively, when we exchange ideas and people, and when we open our hearts and minds to new perspectives and new knowledge.
Collaboration is also a cornerstone of innovation and excellence. It is by pooling infrastructure, data and expertise that we can best pursue ground-breaking research which improves people’s lives and help to build strong and sustainable knowledge economies.
The outcome of the UK’s referendum on EU membership will mean a new relationship between the UK and the rest of Europe, but we will work together to ensure that the long-standing research and exchange relationships between Europe’s universities continue, for the benefit of people across the continent.
The Presidents of European Rectors’ Conferences –
Prof. Rolf Tarrach, President, European Universities Association
Prof. Dame Julia Goodfellow, President, Universities UK
Prof. Dr. Horst Hippler, President, German Rectors’ Conference
Professor Jean-Loup Salzmann, President, French Conference of University Presidents
Prof. Dr. Oliver Vitouch, President, Universities Austria
Prof. Dr. Tomas Zima, President, Czech Rectors’ Conference
Rector Per Michael Johansen, Vice Chair, Universities Denmark
Professor Tiit Land, President, Universities Estonia
Professor Jouko Niinimäki, President, Universities Finland
Professor Luc De Schepper, President, Flemish Interuniversity Council
Dr József Bódis, President, Hungarian Rectors’ Conference
Dr Jon Atli Benediktsson, President, National Rectors Conference in Iceland
Prof. Don Barry, President, Irish Universities Association
Prof. Gaetano Manfredi, President, Conference of Italian Universities Rectors
Professor Arvids Barsevskis, Chairman, Latvian Rectors’ Council
Professor Rainer Klump, President, University of Luxembourg
Jan Mengelers, Board Member, Association of Universities in the Netherlands
Prof. Dr Vidar L. Haanes, President, Norwegian Association for Higher Education Institutions
Professor Wieslaw Banys, President, Conference of Rectors of Academic Schools in Poland
Prof. António M. Cunha, President, Portuguese National Conference of Rectors
Prof. Dr Vladimir Bumbasirevic, President, Conference of the Universities of Serbia
Professor Rudolf Kropil, President, Slovak Rectors’ Conference
Professor Dragan Marušič, PhD, President, Slovenian Rectors’ Conference
Mr Segundo Píriz Durán, President, Conference of the Rectors of Spanish Universities (CRUE)
Professor Helen Dannetun, Chair of the Board, Association of Swedish Higher Education