‘Eurofog’ of claim and counterclaim on EU membership and UK science

science researchGraeme Reid, Professor of Science and Research Policy at UCL, recently advised a House of Lords inquiry on the impact of EU membership on UK  science and research. In this post, he discusses the inquiry’s main findings, both expected and unexpected. He also joins a high-level panel to discuss the topic at the UCL European Institute on 12 May 2016.

The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee published its report on EU membership and UK science after months of evidence gathering and analysis. I was specialist advisor to the Committee during the inquiry.

The Committee made no attempt to reach a view of the wider question of whether the UK should remain a member of the EU. It focused exclusively on the science and research dimension of the EU debate. That said, the overwhelming balance of evidence supported continued membership of the EU. That reflected the practical experiences of a wide population of scientists and researchers. Continue reading

The implications of Brexit on Irish Higher Education

school-furniture-education-universityNed Costello, CEO of the Irish Universities Association, argues that a UK exit from the European Union would likely have a significant negative impact on Irish students in the UK, British students in Ireland, and the Irish Higher Education sector in general.

Each year, around this time, we are reminded of the close nature of the relationship between the UK and Ireland … BAFTA awards for films and performances which both countries can justifiably claim (Brooklyn and Room in 2016), and the healthy on- and-off-the-pitch passions and rivalries of Six Nations rugby…

The relationship between Irish and UK universities is little different. Most Irish universities developed out of an early British model, albeit in very different political, social and economic contexts. However, the fundamentals of geographical proximity, a common language, economic ties and cultural affinities have all helped ensure that our IE-UK academic networks remain strong. Continue reading

Brexit – What should universities do in the run up to the referendum?

michael-arthur-3Professor Michael Arthur, President and Provost of UCL, speaks up in support for UK membership of the EU, highlighting the potentially harmful effects an exit could have on the UK’s Higher Education sector. Writing in a personal capacity, he reflects on the role that universities, and their Vice-Chancellors, should take in the referendum debate. Moreover, he argues that a ‘no’ vote would not only lead to a significant loss of research funding and risk diminishing the diversity of staff and students, but also to a loss of impact in setting the global research agenda.

With Prime Minister David Cameron’s draft EU reform deal on the table, current speculation is that the referendum vote could happen as early as June this year. A good time therefore to put fingers to keyboard and to express my personal view about what universities should (or perhaps should not) do as the debate intensifies.

As many will be aware, UCL hosted a launch event for UUK, during which this collective sector-wide body expressed a view that it would be very bad for UK Higher Education if we were to leave the European Union. It was a one-sided launch event and was never intended to be anything else, but nevertheless it attracted criticism, and was contrasted with the silent approach taken by Scottish universities during the referendum on independence for Scotland. Continue reading

Debating the EU at Universities: A Response to Menon

university-libraryWhat kind of debate on EU membership should we have at a university? Professor Jan Kubik, Director of the UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies, replies to Anand Menon who has criticised Universities UK for taking sides against a UK exit from the EU. Kubik calls for contestation, but also for broadening the debate beyond narrow economic concerns. Universities, above all, he argues, should be places where such (critical) consideration of material interests is counterbalanced by a thoughtful examination of ideals.

Universities UK, an organisation created by the leaders of British universities, has taken a strong stance against Brexit. Professor Menon is right in worrying that ‘by taking such a clear stand on such a hotly debated political issue, universities may make it harder for their staff to foster precisely those sorts of debates that universities are meant to encourage‘. Such a ‘clear stand’, taken de facto by the top academic brass (at least so far), may stifle the debate, as ‘average’ academics will fear arguing against their ‘bosses’.

Menon then analyses briefly an argument for and against Brexit, from the point of view of British universities’ interests. The argument, important though it is, focuses exclusively on the material components. At the moment, EU research funding is very beneficial for British Universities (still regarded as the best in Europe), but – Menon argues – there may be ways to reconfigure this financing after the exit, without too much loss. Continue reading