British university leaders warned on Friday that leaving the European Union without an official Brexit deal would be “one of the biggest threats our universities have ever faced.”
In an open letter to lawmakers, leaders from Universities UK, the Russell Group, Guild HE, Million Plus and University Alliance – which collectively represent more than 150 higher education providers – said a no-deal Brexit could lead to “an academic, cultural and scientific setback from which it would take decades to recover.”
“Our 50,000 EU staff and 130,000 EU students, not to mention the 15,000 UK students studying in Europe, are starting the new year facing significant uncertainty about their futures,” said the letter.
“Vital research links will be compromised, from new cancer treatments to technologies combating climate change,” it warned.
British MPs are set to vote on Prime Minister Theresa May’s withdrawal deal with the EU later this month, and defeat would leave the whole process up in the air, raising the chances of leaving without a deal on March 29.
The university leaders urged the government to “demonstrate the required ambition” to secure a deal.
“We are also seeking confirmation that the government will replace research funding sources from which we may be excluded at the end of March,” it added.
British universities have received 11.4 billion euros (£13 billion) in funding as part of the EU’s Horizon 2020 research program, which began in 2014.