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Europe’s university leaders call for urgent Brexit clarification

​Leaders of European higher education bodies have signed a statement calling on governments across Europe to speed up Brexit negotiations so talks can begin over the future of European research, collaboration, and student mobility.

The statement from 22 representative organisations of universities and national rectors' conferences from across Europe asks for clarification on arrangements for the European Research and Innovation programme – Horizon 2020 – and the Erasmus+ exchange programme after March 2019 when the UK is due to leave the European Union.

Research and higher education will be discussed in the second phase of Brexit negotiations, which are expected to start following the conclusion of the first phase of discussions. The European Council Summit concluded on 20 October 2017 that not enough progress had been made to start the second phase. The delay in the negotiations extends the uncertainties that the higher education sector is facing.

Professor Janet Beer, President of Universities UK and Vice-Chancellor of Liverpool University, says the lack of clarity is causing problems for universities now:

"We are now entering the period in which universities need to be finalising their research, collaboration and student exchange programmes for 2019. There is an urgent need for clarity on the UK's participation in Horizon 2020 beyond Brexit. This scheme enhances the impact of our research by providing access to vital networks, talent and funding. Without clarity, the risk is that important European research programmes could stall. 

"The arrival on campuses across Europe of students hoping to study abroad in 2019 increases the need to know whether the UK will or will not be able to continue to take part in Erasmus+.  Participation in outward mobility schemes, such as Erasmus+, has major benefits for students, universities and employers."

Full statement:

Higher education, research and innovation are critical to the future of Europe. Conditions favourable to close cooperation and exchange are crucial to knowledge development in the interests of our societies. Universities call on the leaders of our respective governments and on the European Commission to accelerate the process of reaching agreement on the UK's continued participation in, and contribution to, Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+ to the end of these programmes. Clarification is now urgent: European consortia are already being formed and bids designed ready to be submitted after March 2019. Similarly, students arriving on campus this autumn and planning a period abroad as part of their studies need clarity on whether they can participate in Erasmus+ mobility involving UK partners from 2019 onwards.

The time has come for clarity and agreement in this important area. Universities must know which, if any, measures they need to undertake in the future to enable their students to thrive and their researchers to continue their innovative research. We urge you to address these pressing issues.


Signatories: The Presidents of European Rectors' Conferences


Professor Rolf Tarrach


European Universities Association

Professor Janet Beer​


Universities UK

Professor Jan Szmidt


Conference of Rectors of Academic Schools in Poland (KRASP)

Professor Helen Dannetun

Chair of the Board

Association of Swedish Higher Education (SUHF)

Pieter Duisenberg


Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU)

Professor Herman Van Goethem


Flemish Interuniversity Council (VLIR)

Dr. József Bódis


Hungarian Rectors' Conference

Professor Tiit Land


Universities Estonia

Arvids Barsevskis


Council of Rectors of Latvia

Professor Michael O. Hengartner



Professor Rudolf Kropil


Slovak Rectors´ Conference

Professor António M. Cunha


Portuguese National Conference of Rectors (CRUP)

Professor Dragan Marušič


Slovenian Rectors' Conference

Dr Jon Atli Benediktsson



National Rectors Conference in Iceland

Professor Jouko Niinimäki



Universities Finland (UNIFI)

Professor Tomas Zima



Czech Rectors' Conference

Professor Mari Sundli Tveit


Norwegian Association of Higher Education Institutions

Rector Anders Bjarklev



Universities Denmark

Prof. Dr. Oliver Vitouch



Universities Austria (UNIKO)

Roberto Fernández



Conference of the Rectors of Spanish Universities (CRUE)

Professor Alfred J. Vella


University of Malta

​​Professor Vladimir Bumbasirevic


Conference of the Universities of Serbia​



National Rectors' Conferences (NRCs) are member organisations that represent the universities and higher education institutions in their respective countries or regions. The NRCs represent their members to government, parliament and civic organisations. The signatories are all members of the European University Association (EAU), which is the representative organisation of universities and national rectors' conferences in 47 European countries.

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