student life

What would the EU referendum mean for universities?

European Union, universities, student life, Alex Veeneman, Kettle Mag
Written by Alex Veeneman

As Parliament continues it’s summer recess, the effects of the proposed referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union remain the subject of debate. That debate has since been extended into higher education, with questions on how the referendum would affect universities across the UK.

Last week, Universities UK, the organisation which oversees the interests of all of the UK’s universities, said it was vital Britain remained a member of the EU, and a no result on the referendum would harm higher education. They also launched a campaign to address the subject, known as the Universities for Europe campaign.

‘Reflection of importance’ of membership

In an interview with Radio 4’s Today programme, Nicola Dandridge, the chief executive of Universities UK, said there was a consensus among universities in the UK that it was essential that the UK remained a part of the EU because of the benefits UK universities bring to Europe.

“It’s a reflection of the importance of membership of the European Union to so many aspects of what universities do, be that teaching or research,” Dandridge said, noting the Erasmus study abroad programme for UK students to study at other European universities as well as EU students studying in the UK.

Dandridge said that programmes like Erasmus would be unable to continue if the UK left the EU.

“We would have to negotiate each time we wanted to participate in any European programme,” Dandridge said. “It’s not necessarily a given that we would be able to participate in any of these programmes.”

Dandridge added that the campaign would not be about the politics of the referendum, but the facts and views from a higher education standpoint on the UK and the EU.

“We want our voices to be heard,” Dandridge said. “We want to be contributing to the debate about the benefits and disbenefits of membership in the EU.”

A different point of view

It is unclear as to whether other bodies within higher education support or do not support the EU referendum. A request for comment to the National Union of Students was not returned.

In addition, beyond Universities UK, there is also work done to promote universities in London. The business and travel organization London and Partners oversees the web site, which contains a listing of universities and available programmes, as well as resources regarding London and access to programme information.

Reached by email, a spokesperson for London and Partners said they did not take a position on political issues, including the referendum.

Additionally, the organisation Universities Scotland said they may maintain neutrality on the EU referendum. The organisation maintained neutrality in the lead up on the vote on Scotland’s independence referendum last year, according to a report from the Scotsman newspaper. The organisation said an announcement on its views toward the EU referendum would be announced in September, the report adds.

Prime Minister David Cameron has said such a referendum will be held by the end of 2017. A spokesperson for the Foreign Office did not respond to a request seeking comment on the view from Universities UK.

What do you think? What implications would a yes vote on the EU referendum have on universities? Have your say in the comments section below.