Brexit would put North-East universities at risk

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North-East universities would lose millions of pounds in research investment if the United Kingdom were to leave the European Union, it was claimed last week.

The Northern Echo reported that Labour’s Shadow Business, Innovation, and Skills Secretary, Angela Eagle, said that North-East universities had received more than £50 million in research funding via the European Research Council (ERC) since 2008.

Within that £50 million, £27 million went to Durham and £23 million went to Newcastle.

Addressing an audience at Newcastle University, Ms Eagles said that “the North-East is rightly proud of the pioneering research being undertaken by its universities in Newcastle and Durham.

“The research at both universities and the potential spin-offs can play a huge part in driving growth and diversifying the North-East’s economy.

“These figures highlight the risk to our universities of the UK leaving the European Union. EU-funded research at the UK’s leading universities has led to vital scientific discoveries, including potential treatments for cancer and heart disease.

“Leaving the EU would put at risk this funding stream and undermine the UK’s world-leading university sector, including Newcastle and Durham universities, putting our competitive advantage and highly-skilled jobs at risk.”

The Northern Echo reported that Kevin Dowd, Professor of Finance and Economics at Durham, accused Ms. Eagle of “scaremongering.”

“To suggest that North-East universities, or any others around the country, are in danger of losing investment by our voting to leave is a nonsense.”

“Britain has more world leading universities than any other European country—including Durham University and Newcastle University. It’s because of these assets that global investment comes to Britain, not because of EU membership.

“The costs of European Union membership far outweigh the inputs from the likes of the ERC funding. Outside of the EU we would save and invest that money in our own universities, without the bureaucracy that comes with the EU. Angela Eagle’s comments are another case of scaremongering from the Remain campaign,” Professor Dowd said.

Ms Eagles’ remarks come after Professor Stuart Corbridge, Vice-Chancellor at Durham University, had joined a list of 102 other university leaders in signing a letter showing support for the UK to stay in the EU.

The letter, which was published in The Sunday Times, read: “We urge the British public to consider the vital role the EU plays in supporting our world-class universities.

“Inside the EU, we are better able to collaborate with partners from across Europe to carry out cutting edge research, from medical and healthcare advances, to new materials, products and services.

“In the EU, the UK is also a more attractive destination for global talent, ensuring that our students are taught by the best minds from across Europe. This has a direct impact on our economy, driving growth, generating jobs and ultimately improving people’s lives.”

Photograph: Sébastien Bertrand via Flickr

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