No deal: implications for Higher Education and Research

The UK Government issued the first batch of its technical guidance notes on 23 August 2018 setting out the implications of the UK and the EU failing to reach agreement on the terms of the UK's withdrawal from the EU which will take place on 29 March 2019.

Two of the technical notes relate specifically to aspects of higher education and research, namely the Erasmus + student exchange / mobility programme and the Horizon 2020 research programme. The technical notes state that the UK Government expects an agreement to be reached given the mutual interest of both the UK and the EU in so doing and the progress which has been made to date.

The current Erasmus + programme runs until 2020 as does the Horizon 2020 research programme. The UK Government has expressed its strong commitment and support for both student mobility and collaborative research activities with the other EU member states.

In respect of Erasmus + the technical note states that the UK Government's underwrite guarantee will:

  • cover payment of awards to UK organisations for successful bids submitted before the UK exits the EU as previously confirmed; and
  • be extended in a 'no deal' scenario where 'UK organisations are eligible...from 29 March 2019 until the end of 2020' and that the Government is seeking to agree the terms of eligibility.

It goes on to state that the October 2018 call for bids from organisations will take place as usual and that 'individual students and young people who wish to participate in Erasmus + funded activities should therefore contact their respective organisations.'

The UK has received some 4.6 billion euros of funding (14.3% of the total) from the Horizon 2020 programme to date. The technical note re-states that the UK Government will guarantee funding for successful competitively won bids for EU projects before the UK leaves the EU, for the duration of the projects. This applies only to UK organisations (including those in a consortium) and the Government is seeking clarification from the European Commission about how best this will be handled in a 'no deal' scenario where the UK organisation is the lead partner in a consortium. The Government's guarantee was extended in July this year where the UK organisation is able to participate as a 'third country'.

The technical note affirms the UK Government's commitment to:

  • ongoing collaboration in research, including its White Paper proposals to form 'a cooperative accord with the EU on science and innovation';
  • its goal to increase spending on research and development to 2.4% of GDP by 2027; and 
  • developing a new International Research and Innovation Strategy in partnership with UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

Please refer to the particular and overarching technical notes for further information about the Government's guidance on a 'no deal' scenario. Clearly there is still a lot to be done and much may as yet change.

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