By Alistair Jarvis, Director of Communications and External Relations, Universities UK & Vivienne Stern, Director of the UK HE International Unit, Universities UK
Last night was extraordinary. The Conservative majority makes one thing crystal clear. There will be a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU before the end of 2017.
Universities UK’s campaign to explain the benefits of European Union membership steps up a gear from today. Over the coming weeks and months you will hear a great deal more from us about why European Union membership is so important and has a positive impact on the British people, our society, our economy and our universities. We will campaign across the country with powerful evidence and compelling stories, in the media, through public events, and working with partners across the university sector and beyond.
Last year, UK university leaders committed to ensuring that the benefits of EU membership to the British people are properly understood, and that our voices are heard in the debate about EU reform. We have set out some of the benefits of the EU to UK growth, to our students, to addressing global challenges and to local economies.
Universities are inherently outward-looking and internationally connected. Knowledge is international (nearly half of UK academic papers have an international author). And although we have links all around the globe, it remains true that so many of our closest relationships are with other European member states. European universities are our most frequent research partners (with Germany, France and Italy all in the UK’s top five collaborators). The EU makes it easy to collaborate on life-saving research, and for thousands of British students to benefit from exchanges. We are exceptionally lucky we are part of this network.
We are international – but we are European first. World-class research depends on scale, continuity, long-term planning and extensive global networks of collaboration. As part of something bigger we are able to make a more profound impact on many of the challenges facing the world – like climate change, disease, food and water security – than we would ever be able to make on our own. We have more influence around the world as part of this network, and more impact on the rules that affect how we collaborate with our largest trade, education and research partners.
The British people, economy and society benefit from the UK being a member of the biggest bloc of knowledge in the world. Research, knowledge, innovation and technology are the factors that will decide future economic growth and human progress. EU membership creates British jobs, enables life-changing discoveries and inventions and strengthens the UK’s standing in the world.
We know we will have many allies in making this argument – business leaders; students; academics; charities; trade unions – and, we suspect, our newly re-elected Prime Minister.