Home > Policy and analysis > Brexit and UK universities > Priorities for exit negotiations

Priorities for exit negotiations

As part of exit negotiations, the government should prioritise securing:

  1. Residency rights for EU nationals currently working in the university sector, and their dependants. This should include confirmation of their permanent right to work in the UK and access to public services. This should be the very first issue that the UK government addresses if these rights have not been guaranteed ahead of exit negotiations.

  2. Continued UK participation in the Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme to the end of the programme period in 2020, even if this date is post-exit, in order to maximise stability in the short term.

  3. Close collaboration with European partners to deliver excellent research. International collaboration is essential to the success of research and innovation in the UK. Currently, Horizon 2020 provides a ready-made platform for collaborating with key European partners, including six of the UK’s top 10 research partners. Participation in Horizon 2020 allows access to a multi-national pooled financial resource that supports – and incentivises – collaboration. The programme offers globally recognised prestige, enabling access and exposure to networks and contacts that inform further collaborations. It also provides a single regulatory framework for collaboration.

  4. Provided the 9th Framework Programme (FP9) for research and innovation (the successor to Horizon 2020) maintains a focus on excellence then the government should seek access to it, as well as influence over its future shape.

    The government should equally prioritise developing new collaborative funding arrangements and provide enhanced support for collaboration with both European partners and major research powers outside of Europe, with a focus on delivering excellent research.

  5. Continued access to Erasmus+ and the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions programmes. These schemes enable UK students and staff to pursue international experiences that directly benefit their academic performance and their wider employability, while enabling them to cultivate international networks which sow the seeds for future collaboration, whether academic or professional.

  6. Erasmus+: Erasmus is a significant programme for student outward mobility, responsible for some 46% of all current mobility of UK students. Maintaining and building on levels of outward mobility will be an important way of growing the skills and experience necessary for the UK to be a global trading nation. This would be a pragmatic and cost-effective move given the expense and bureaucracy involved in setting up an alternative replacement scheme at a national level at this scale. However, continued access to Erasmus should be coupled with enhanced investment to grow other international mobility opportunities.

    Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions (MSCAs): Participation in the MSCAs allows universities to host talented foreign researchers and to create strategic partnerships with leading institutions worldwide. Evidence suggests that MSCA placements enjoy a highly positive reputation and play an important role in attracting talented EU researchers to the UK. MSCA fellows are also more successful in applying for European Research Council competitive grants.

  7. An outcome which allows for the continued recognition of professional qualifications between the UK and the remaining 27 EU member states. The mutual recognition of qualifications facilitates efficient and easy labour market mobility between countries. In particular, the Professional Qualifications Directive provides a comprehensive EU system for recognition of professional experience, makes labour markets more flexible and promotes automatic recognition of professional qualifications in EU and EEA countries. Leaving the Single Market could mean that the UK was no longer covered by the directive which could, in the long term, reduce the value of a UK degree, as prospective EU students considering studying in the UK would be left without any safeguard in relation to the transferability of the qualification. In addition, leaving the Single Market could restrict UK residents’ ability to undertake qualifications in certain professions across the EEA and then be able to practise their profession in the UK if they wished to return. In order to ensure the continued transferability of professional qualifications between the UK and the EU, this area must feature as part of exit negotiations, and in a future trade deal between the UK and the EU.

  8. Preserving and building on regulatory and standards equivalence with other EU countries. A common regulatory framework has been a major enabler for research collaboration through providing certainty and consistency. It has provided a common set of rules to underpin EU funded research collaboration, including on intellectual property and the commercialisation of research. If the UK is to continue to collaborate with European partners, and in particular if it is to continue to access research programmes, it will need to ensure that we are aligned with regulation relating to intellectual property and research commercialisation.


Horizon 2020: universities need clarity on UK participation in EU research and innovation programme

7 November 2017
Universities UK International's Peter Mason looks at the possible impact of Brexit on the UK's participation in the EU's research and innovation programme Horizon 2020. He looks at what's at stake and what universities need.

How can universities help to attract and retain graduates in North East England?

27 April 2017
Ross Smith, Director of Policy at North East England Chamber of Commerce, outlines areas where universities could do more to help encourage graduates to stay to work in North East England


Need for urgent clarity on status of EU students

14 June 2018
The UK could see a drop in EU students unless there is urgent clarity about the fee status of EU students starting courses next year (2019-20).

Door remains open for UK participation in next EU research programme

7 June 2018
The European Commission has set out how it would like to spend €100bn on research and innovation in the next EU budget. The new programme – Horizon Europe – will cover the period 2021-2027 and is a successor to the current programme Horizon 2020.