In its submission to the 2020 budget, the association that represents 24 UK universities said the government should “make a commitment to ring-fence sufficient funding” for the country’s continued participation in the world’s largest program for multi-country collaborative R&D and research excellence.
If full Horizon Europe participation is not deemed acceptable by the UK government, it should create a back-up plan that can be developed and delivered at pace, the Russell Group explained.
“The UK should be ambitious, not cut corners”
At a minimum, it said the UK should participate in the program as a ‘third country’ on a “pay as you go basis”.
“As we look ahead, the UK will need to make tough choices about its future relationship with the EU, but one of the most important choices it should make is to negotiate an association agreement for full access to the new Horizon Europe,” the Russell Group stated in its submission.
The Horizon Europe program, starting in 2021, will bring together researchers from Europe, but also countries such as Australia, Canada and Japan.
UK Research and Innovation announced on March 3 that UK participants could continue to receive EU grant funding for the lifetime of individual Horizon 2020 projects – including projects finishing after 31 December 2020 when the transition period ends.
Universities should also be “actively involved” in future trade deal negotiations with the EU and globally, the Russell Group added.
It pointed out that along with the nearly £5 billion international students at Russell Group universities contribute to the UK economy each year, member institutions also have “extensive links” with international businesses that could be the source of even more valuable foreign direct investment.
The government should also strive to make the UK the best place for postgraduate research training, the Russell Group contended, as it would “strengthen the UK’s position as a research power”, and lay foundations for future R&D-led growth.
“The UK will need a significant new pool of research talent in business, universities, the public and third sectors and the UK should be ambitious, not cut corners.
“The full economic costs of this training should be met from public funds,” the association continued.
By ensuring visa and associated fees for highly skilled migrants are “internationally competitive”, the government will further enhance the country as a place for innovation and enterprise.
“The UK is in a good position to make the most of future opportunities”
Additionally, the group pointed out that the newly proposed points-based system must allow the UK to “attract the best and most exciting talent from around the world and at all career stages”.
“We hope the government shares our ambition for this system to provide a warm welcome to potential international students, to researchers… and transform our economy for the future,” the submission read.
The Russell Group also called on the government to continue to work with universities to design and implement elements of the UK’s new visa system.
These include the proposed new post-study work offer and Global Talent visa.
“The UK is in a good position to make the most of future opportunities by drawing on the networks and connections our universities have made internationally,” the submission concluded.