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European HE calls for seamless exchange

On the eve of Brexit, education sector bodies in Europe have united in pushing for a seamless transition in terms of mobility agreements for students and staff between the UK and Europe.

A scene from a Brexit protest march in London. Photo: David B Young/Flickr

The statement was signed by 37 domestic and international organisations in Europe

“We, the major bodies representing, and partnering with, science and higher education across the UK and Europe, are united in agreeing that we wish to continue to work together following the departure of the UK from the European Union,” the statement reads.

“Swift agreement in this area of clear mutual benefit would be good for all of us”

Signed by 37 domestic and international organisations within Europe, the statement calls on governments to commit to continued UK involvement in the Horizon Europe research program and the exchange program Erasmus+.

“We call on our national governments and the European Commission to act on the commitments of the political declaration and work swiftly to agree a basis for continued collaboration through the UK’s full association to Horizon Europe and Erasmus+,” the statement continues.

“Swift agreement in this area of clear mutual benefit would be good for all of us and should be reached before the end of 2020, allowing for the development of innovative and stronger collaborations over the decades to come.”

Speaking with The PIE News, president of Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) Pieter Duisenberg noted that continued cooperation and collaboration post Brexit is vital

“UK universities and academics are great partners for Dutch universities and Dutch academics,” he said, adding that both Dutch and British students benefit from exchanges.

“It’s a very good two-way relationship. Of course we regret it very much that the UK is having the Brexit now.

“We think that academics and education will suffer if we do not continue the cooperation.”

Up until now uncertainty surrounding Brexit had made it “quite difficult to move ahead”, Duisenberg explained.

“We have to move on right after today and try to come up with good solutions that will be very much like the situation we had when the UK was in the EU, both for academics and for education. Everybody would benefit if we would achieve the same type of cooperation as soon as possible.”

Duisenberg remains optimistic, and noted that it is “very likely” that cooperation will continue.

“We have plans with our Ministry of Education to move forward now. It is now time to make concrete steps and achieve what can be organised on a bilateral basis and then on a European basis,” he told The PIE.

Another of the 24 National University representative bodies which signed the statement was the German Rectors’ Conference.

The UK’s exit from the European Union marks a “watershed in the history of European unification”, said its president Peter-André Alt.

“Together with our British partners, we want to do everything in our power to ensure that academic relations remain as unimpeded as possible by this deep and painful cut,” he said in a statement.

The uncertainty surrounding the future framework for European-British cooperation following Brexit is “proving to be increasingly counterproductive for academic cooperation,” Alt explained.

“It is now vitally important for German universities, too, that the framework for future cooperation between European and British partners is quickly resolved in the transition phase which is now beginning.”

Ensuring the UK remains fully associated to Horizon Europe and Erasmus+ is “the only chance we have to continue the close and well-established relationships with British universities and academic institutions to the benefit of both countries after 1 January 2021,” he said.


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