Belfast Telegraph

Universities must remain part of EU research programmes, business leaders warn

Universities must remain part of European Union research programmes after Brexit to keep them at the top of international league tables, business leaders will warn.

EU projects account for around a sixth of research funding in the UK and replacing it "would be a real challenge", according to the CBI.

It is calling on ministers to secure permanent associated country status for Britain as well as an increase in research funding from government.

Overseas staff should be allowed to stay and foreign students applying for courses in the run-up to Brexit given permission to complete their courses whatever the outcome of the negotiations between the UK and Brussels, CBI d irector-general Carolyn Fairbairn will tell the Universities UK annual conference.

She will say: "Today EU schemes makes up a sixth of our total research funding.

"Replacing that would be a real challenge. But this isn't just about money, it is about international leadership and giving the UK a voice in setting standards.

"Domestic research spending is not yet high enough," she will add.

"We are significantly behind China and Japan on levels of spending and we don't yet do well enough on commercialisation.

"That's a huge shared challenge for universities and businesses.

"That's why the CBI wants to see spending on research and development raised to 3% of GDP, as a shared goal for the public and private sector."

Labour has pledged to abolish tuition fees, which now stand at up to £9,250 a year for universities in England, and Nick Timothy, a former top adviser to Prime Minister Theresa May branded the system a " unsustainable and ultimately pointless Ponzi scheme".

But Ms Fairbairn will say fees should continue.

"Re-introducing the direct grant would cost £11 billion per year, money spent on those who, on average, will end up as the best off in our society," she will say.

"But if we choose, as I think we should, to maintain the fee system in England, we do have to ask why there has been rising concern about the system.

"Many potential changes have been put on the table in recent weeks, with a variety of price tags.

"But with public finances tight, government should reflect on the relative strengths of the tuition fees system in England in boosting participation by students from disadvantaged backgrounds, and judge carefully where any future investment could make the greatest difference."