The outcome of the referendum is now known. While UCL did not take a formal position during the referendum campaign, I have given my personal view and you will have heard many other voices from the UCL community. The loss of EU membership will have a clear impact on universities such as UCL, particularly around the mobility of students and funding of research.
Today, more than ever, I want to reaffirm that UCL remains a global university through our outlook, people and enduring international partnerships. I also want in particular to address UCL’s staff and students from all countries of the European Union. We value you enormously – your contribution to UCL life is intrinsic to what the university stands for.
This morning, I have reassured UCL staff and students that, barring unilateral action from the UK government, the vote to leave the European Union does not mean there will be any immediate material change to the immigration status of current and prospective EU students and staff, nor to the UK university sector’s participation in EU programmes such as Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+. Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty foresees a two-year negotiation process between the UK and other member states, during which time the terms of the UK’s exit from the European Union will be decided.
There will be many questions from many people in the UCL community and beyond about what this vote means for UCL. We will address these as a matter of priority as the details become clear.
UCL President & Provost, Professor Michael Arthur
I want to reassure all students and staff of my support as valued members of our engineering community. Our mission of Change the World remains as true as ever in what will inevitably be uncertain times.
We are part of a truly global university with a vision and reach that is unique. With our many valued partners we will continue to demonstrate leadership. We will have to be patient and keep cool heads as we navigate in uncharted waters. I am confident however that we can do this and remain strong, successful and above all, inclusive.
Dean of Engineering, Professor Nigel Titchener-Hooker
On June 23rd, UK citizens made a momentous decision to leave, albeit by a narrow majority, the European Union. This was a personal sadness for me as someone who was excited and motivated by the vision realised when I was an undergraduate. Of course until Article 50 is invoked, the formal and irreversible process of leaving will not be started, but it is already very obvious what the ‘leave’ vote has already done to the UK exchange rate.
On a more positive note, we must prepare for the departure and make the most of any new opportunities that present themselves. Even after the Article 50 button is pressed, it will be two years before the legal impact hits, and the Provost has told Heads of Department and Deans that UCLs obligations will be honoured right up to that time, and probably beyond, for new contract starts before the legal leave date.
For the UK, I can give some views from the professional engineering institutional community, and some opinions about manufacturing industry.
Senior voices have spoken in the professional Engineering communities, the CEO of the Royal Academy of Engineering said:
‘The result of the EU referendum will have a material effect on UK engineering which accounts for some 27% of UK GDP and over half of our exports. It is critical to the future of the UK that the government’s response to the referendum is informed by a clear understanding of the potential solutions, opportunities and risks from the perspective of UK engineering. In this context, it will be important to ensure that the UK maintains its position as a centre of world class engineering research, remains embedded in setting globally recognised codes and standards, has access to the skills that industry needs and retains competitiveness in export markets.’
The IET position is similar:
Taking the UK out of the European Union will be hugely complex. It will also take time. In the meantime, it’s important to remember that the legal situation today remains unchanged and any changes as a result of the decision to leave will not be immediate. The UK is still in the European Union, and will be for at least the next two years.
It is also worth emphasising that the global status of members’ qualifications is unchanged by the result of the referendum. The European bodies responsible for registration and accreditation of engineers and engineering education define their geographical boundaries by the European Higher Education Area, which is independent of the European Union.
Both while the UK remains in the European Union and negotiate their exit, and in the future, there will continue to be many opportunities to champion the interests of engineering and technology – and the IET will ensure it does so. This includes making a strong case to Government for greater investment in research and engineering, making it clear that these are vital to the long-term wellbeing of our economy.
Universities can help the professional engineering communities – RAEng and the PEIs – by actively participating in the policy debate, and demonstrating a unified and constructive voice to be heard by UK Government and our European Partners alike.
For Manufacturing, there are both risks and opportunities, and actions that universities can take to reduce the first and increase the second. Major risks include the migration offshore of major international manufacturing operations like Nissan and JLR, however a consistently lower exchange rate should reduce the costs (in foreign currencies) of their operations. Another concern is the possible migration of our infrastructure operators (e.g. EDF, EON, Govia, and RATP) who manage many of our infrastructure services.
The outputs of universities that have the highest impact are trained people and research deliverables. The Dowling Review showed that the UK has a tremendous track record for academic collaboration with, and impact in, industry. The value generated per £ of government money invested puts the UK near the top of the international league. Building on this, to maximise the visibility and connection of these benefits to companies, we must ensure academics work closely and personally with firms who need these deliverables. We can and must demonstrate that the UK is the best place for knowledge and capability.
Vice Dean: Mission, Professor Jeremy Watson CBE
The UK will remain a full member of the EU for at least the next two years, and as such will continue to participate fully in EU funded research programmes – principally Horizon 2020 and the European Research Council. After that, it is clear that the UK will negotiate to retain access to EU funding on as favourable terms as possible (you can see Jo Johnson’s statement here). It is highly likely that we will still be able to apply for funding as, perhaps, an Affiliate Member state. UK Science and Engineering in general, and UCL in particular, punches well above its weight globally, and has made a major contribution to European research over decades. I don’t see how that will be very different in the future. UCL, as London’s global university, is especially well-placed to maximise the opportunities that will arise, and in the Engineering faculty we are particularly outward-looking and well connected to Europe.
In practical terms, the message is that those of you who hold existing research contracts with H2020 and the ERC should assume that they will continue to run to the end of the project. Those of you who are about to negotiate contacts should continue to do so, and those of you who are writing, or beginning to think about writing, new proposals should carry on. We have an excellent track record of success with the EU funding agencies, and we should build on that momentum.
These are uncertain times, but one certainty is that UCL remains a research powerhouse, and is fantastically well placed to maintain that position and perhaps to help define the new relationship that UK Science and Engineering will have with Europe.
Vice Dean: Research, Professor Tony Kenyon
Universities UK have provided some early guidance to answer some common staff and student questions. Please find this below.
Your immigration status has not changed as a result of the vote. This will remain the case until the Government decides otherwise.
Current EU students
Your immigration status and associated fee status, as well as your access to the student loan book, have not changed as a result of the vote. This will remain the case until the Government decides otherwise.
EU students with a place to start in academic year 2016/17 and 2017/18
At this stage, there is no reason to assume any change to your immigration status or access to the student loan book.
EU students studying in the UK under the Erasmus programme
Your immigration status has not changed, and that you continue to be eligible for your Erasmus grant until at least as long as we remain a member of the EU – and could well be extended beyond this.
UK students studying in the EU and elsewhere under the Erasmus programme
Your immigration status has not changed, and you continue to be eligible for your Erasmus grant until at least as long as we remain a member of the EU and could well be extended beyond this.
All staff currently undertaking EU funded projects
The UK’s status as a full participating member of the Horizon 2020 programme has not changed as a result of the referendum vote – existing project grants and contracts will be honoured unless or until advised otherwise.
After the referendum, the UK has seen a steep rise in racist and xenophobic harassment. The links below provide information on support for those experiencing this and ways for bystanders to intervene.