Joint statement from Crue Universidades Españolas and Universities UK

4 December 2018

​Universities UK (UUK) and Crue Universidades Españolas urge Spanish and UK Governments and the EU to ensure that the high-level of collaboration in research and student exchange between our countries is safeguarded, now and in the future. 

The higher education systems in both the United Kingdom and Spain are characterised by diverse and high quality higher education institutions that receive large numbers of international students and strive for excellent research outcomes. Our systems play a very important role in our societies, serving local communities while being globally engaged, through institutions committed to offering equal opportunities for everyone. Over the years, the United Kingdom and Spain have built strong partnerships based on shared values. At the same time, both have played a key role in establishing European cooperation initiatives such as the European Research Area (ERA) and the European Higher Education Area (EHEA).

Crue Universidades Españolas and UUK have agreed to strive to maintain the high-level of collaboration between our higher education systems regardless of the exact outcome of Brexit and urge the British and Spanish Governments, as well as the European Union, to protect these links. We are asking our Governments and the European Union to do this by ensuring the UK continues to participate fully in the current Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020 programmes, specifically ensuring ongoing projects and student & staff mobility are not adversely affected. Furthermore, we also call upon them to allow the UK to become a full associated country to the successor programmes, Erasmus and Horizon Europe. 

The level of ongoing collaboration between our countries is of such magnitude that any change to the UK’s participation in these programmes would be highly detrimental to the higher education and research sectors in both countries. 

Context: Student & staff mobility and collaborative research 

The number of Spanish undergraduate and postgraduate students enrolled in UK universities increases each year. In 2016/2017 there were more than 8,700 Spanish students studying full degrees in the UK and in 2015/2016 the UK hosted almost 5,000 Spanish Erasmus students. In addition, there are over 4,400 Spanish nationals working in British universities. At the same time, 12.4% of outwardly mobile students in the UK choose to go to Spain for degree and short-term mobility, making it the UK’s second largest exchange partner. 

Between 2008 and 2017, researchers in UK and Spain co-authored around 66,000 publications, 2,700 of which were high-impact articles (i.e. within 1% of the most cited papers) . With respect to research funding within Horizon 2020, projects with the participation of partners from both countries account for 47.5% of the total funding of Spanish-led projects and 30.6% of the total budget received by projects led by partners in the UK.

Clarity needed

UUK and Crue Universidades Españolas identified several topics on which clarity is needed for the higher education and research sectors. 

1. Withdrawal Agreement

Crue Universidades Españolas and UUK welcome the provisions regarding academic and scientific transnational collaboration in the Withdrawal Agreement that was reached between EU negotiators and the UK Government on the 14th November 2018. The agreement specifies that, after its ratification, the UK will remain a full participant in Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020 for the duration of both programmes. The agreement also ensures that there would be no change to the residency rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU. Crue Universidades Españolas and UUK urge both sides to end the uncertainty over the UK’s participation in EU programmes after the exit date and reassure UK citizens living in other EU member states and vice versa. 

2. Protecting ongoing projects under Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+

In the case of a no-deal scenario, Crue Universidades Españolas and UUK urge their governments to take measures to mitigate the consequences for the higher education and research sector. Crue Universidades Españolas and UUK welcome the UK Government’s financial guarantee that will financially support UK participants in Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+. However, they urge the UK Government and the European Commission to clarify how this guarantee would work in practice. 

3. Student fees

UUK and Crue Universidades Españolas welcome the UK Government’s announcement that EU students starting their studies in the 2019/2020 academic year will have ‘home fee status’, which includes access to loans. We do, however, urge the UK Government to give the same assurance for the 2020/2021 academic year, in line with the Withdrawal Agreement that specifies that Union law applies during the implementation period. In addition, clarification is also needed on fee status for UK students in Spain. 

4. Recognition of qualifications 

A considerable proportion of graduates from EU universities are working in the UK, and vice versa, thanks to the EU Directive on Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications. Crue Universidades Españolas and UUK ask their governments and the EU to ensure that professional qualifications continue to be mutually recognised. Likewise, it is important to maintain the smooth academic recognition of qualifications giving access to higher education, periods of study and higher education diplomas between our countries as per the Lisbon Recognition Convention.

Crue Universidades Españolas and UUK commit to follow up on the aforementioned agreements and the joint requests to the Governments of Spain and of the United Kingdom, and to the European Union. We will meet again in a year’s time (November 2019) to evaluate the progress towards these objectives.


[1] Viladiu, C. (2018) "Análisis de la colaboración científica entre la Universitat de Barcelona y el Reino Unido" (Analysis of scientific production between the University of Barcelona and the United Kingdom), University of Barcelona

[2] Referido al reconocimiento de las competencias profesionales asociadas a ciertas titulaciones universitarias.

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