IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


UK's status as leading knowledge economy under threat

1 November 2017

Telescope mirror

A new policy briefing by the Centre for Global Higher Education (CGHE) at the UCL Institute of Education (IOE) highlights the urgent need for a new partnership in research, science and innovation with the EU if the UK is to retain its status as a leading knowledge economy.

In the briefing, Dr Vassiliki Papatsiba, CGHE Co-Investigator, and Dr Ludovic Highman, CGHE Senior Research Associate, outline why clarity on the future of the UK's research relationship with the EU is so necessary. They argue that the UK government's 6 September paper, 'Collaboration on science and innovation: a future partnership', fails to provide much-needed detail and overlooks key issues.

Dr Papatsiba and Dr Highman point out that the net €3.4 billion the UK receives from the EU research and development (R&D) budget is equal to more than a year's worth of funds from the UK's seven research councils. The EU's announcement in July that it is considering doubling its R&D budget means that maintaining research collaboration with EU partners is more critical than ever.

The government paper fails to specify the size of the financial contribution the UK will be in a position to make to future research programmes and how it will secure its participation. It also makes no mention of social sciences, humanities, arts and education, which are dependent on the EU for between a fifth and a quarter of their research funding.

One of the most important areas requiring clarity is researcher mobility. Dr Papatsiba and Dr Highman argue that while the government paper emphasises researchers' individual freedom, researcher-to-researcher links are influenced by broader policies and perceptions. Reduced rights to stay in the UK for EU citizens will inevitably lead to less mobility, and therefore a drop in researcher numbers.

A further danger is that the UK will lose voting rights over the thematic directions of the future Framework Programmes for Research and Technological Development, along with the ability to shape funding allocation rationales.

The briefing concludes that the UK needs to secure continued and sustainable cooperation in research, not demand concessions on the assumption that the EU needs the UK more than the UK needs the EU.

The briefing draws on CGHE's research project, 'Brexit, trade, migration and higher education', part of the ESRC's UK in a Changing Europe initiative which supports research into the relationship between the UK and the EU.

Media contact

Anna Phillips
+44 (0)20 7331 5255