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UUK outlines priorities as Brexit talks begin

Guaranteeing the work and residency rights of EU nationals working in UK universities tops the list of priorities for Universities UK as Brexit negotiations begin in Brussels.

Brexit talks have begun this week at the European Commission in Brussels (pictured). Photo: flickr/Stuart Chalmers

17% of the UK universities’ academic staff are from EU member states

UK government ministers headed to the headquarters of the European Commission this week, to begin the two-year long process of negotiating the UK’s exit from the European Union.

And Universities UK has said that the higher education sector should help shape the negotiations.

“The UK government must ensure that the UK continues to welcome, with minimal barriers, talented EU students and staff”

Securing the rights of EU nationals and their dependents, including full access to public services, tops the list of priorities the representative body says the government should aim to achieve in the Brexit negotiations.

Other objectives include securing continued UK participation in research funding program Horizon 2020, in addition to negotiating UK access to, and influence over, the Framework Programme 9 – the subsequent research and innovation program – ensuring it maintains a focus on excellence.

And continuing access to Erasmus+ and the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions research program, as well as preserving and building on regulatory and standards equivalence with other EU countries, such as recognition of qualifications, complete the list.

Julia Goodfellow, president of Universities UK, said that the challenges of Brexit for the UK’s universities are well known.

“Through exit negotiations, the UK government must ensure that the UK continues to welcome, with minimal barriers, talented EU students and staff,” she said.

“They should also make sure the UK can continue to access valuable and collaborative European research networks and programs as well as Erasmus+ and other mobility programs.”

The challenges for UK universities in the process of leaving the EU include increased barriers to recruiting European staff and students, damage to international research collaboration and reduced outward mobility opportunities.

Close to one in five (17%) of the UK universities’ academic staff are from EU member states – 33,735. A further 12,490 EU staff are in non-academic positions.

International students are worth over £25bn to the UK economy, with international student spending supporting the equivalent of 206,600 full-time jobs across the country.

“We have already seen a small dip in the number of applications from EU students this year, so it is important that the UK projects the message globally that we are open and welcoming to international talent,” said Goodfellow.

“There is now an opportunity to make sure that a reshaped, post-Brexit immigration system encourages talented international students and staff to choose the UK.”

Universities UK is the latest international education body to outline its priorities for the Brexit negotiations, with the UK Council for International Student Affairs emphasising that EU students’ rights should be preserved when the country exits the EU.

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