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  • HE debates Brexit

    - Ahead of the referendum on UK membership in the EU university leaders and many scientists in the UK are mobilising against the so-called Brexit. EUA strongly supports its British colleagues who expressed their convictions in a letter of Stephen Hawking and many others from the Royal Society.

    “Universities are essential in shaping our future. There is no great future for either a Europe without the UK or a UK outside Europe,” argues EUA President Rolf Tarrach. “They would have no chance of competing successfully in our quickly developing world. A united European knowledge society would be a major source of wisdom and savoir faire for the whole planet; a split Europe would cut a pathetic figure.”

    Disaster for science

    In a recent open letter more than 150 eminent scientists, such as the well-known theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, argue that leaving the EU could be “a disaster for science”. They explain that the EU has boosted UK science in two crucial ways, first through the funding programmes where the UK has a competitive edge and second through the free movement of labour that facilitates the recruitment of talented researchers from across Europe who might go to UK institutions with an EU grant.

    Since the summer of 2015, Universities UK has run a campaign under the motto “Universities for Europe”. The aim is to show the value of the EU for research and education in the UK and to foster a public debate with all sides. They are engaging with other European partners outside the UK and discussing the potential impact of a Brexit on European Higher Education. 

    Beware Swiss example

    The full letter of Stephen Hawking and his colleagues can be read here:

    “Sir, The EU has boosted UK science in two crucial ways. First, increased funding has raised greatly the level of European science as a whole and of the UK in particular because we have a competitive edge. Second, we now recruit many of our best researchers from continental Europe, including younger ones who have obtained EU grants and have chosen to move with them here. Being able to attract and fund the most talented Europeans assures the future of British science and also encourages the best scientists elsewhere to come here.

    Switzerland pays into the EU and was a popular destination for young scientists. It now has limited access to EU funds because it voted to restrict the free movement of workers, and is desperately trying to find alternative ways to attract young talent. If the UK leaves the EU and there is a loss of freedom of movement of scientists between the UK and Europe, it will be a disaster for UK science and universities. Investment in science is as important for the long-term prosperity and security of the UK as investment in infrastructure projects, farming or manufacturing; and the free movement of scientists is as important for science as free trade is for market economics.

    We are all scientists, mathematicians, engineers and economists in Cambridge, are all Fellows of the Royal Society and are writing in an individual capacity.”