Belfast uni considers cross-border professorships to keep EU cash
A top UK university is considering creating joint academic posts with institutions in the Irish Republic to ensure it still benefits from post-Brexit European research funding.
Queen's in Belfast, a member of the Russell Group of leading research-driven universities, is exploring the potential of establishing shared professorships with colleges in Dublin and elsewhere south of the Irish border.
The possibility is being examined amid continued uncertainty over whether UK institutions will lose out on a sizeable chunk of research income currently accessed through the EU.
Queen's believes a joint professor dividing his or her time between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic could avail themselves of EU funds though association with an EU institution.
The academic's salary would be split between the two institutions.
Professor Richard English, pro-vice chancellor for Internationalisation and engagement at Queen's, stressed the idea was at the "early stages" of development but expressed confidence it could work well.
He said Queen's was trying to "think creatively" about the potential challenges posed by Brexit.
"It's hard to measure the cold shoulder effect that Brexit will have in terms of UK science, whether people will be looking for funders other than UK partners because they are not quite sure how it's going to go," he said.
"What we would like to do is guarantee ourselves against that cold wind and so the 50/50 appointments would be one way of doing it."
He said Queen's was initially looking at areas where cross-border collaboration was already well developed.
"If it is something that emerges organically and works well then it could catch on," he said.
Prof English said the location of Queen's could give it an advantage over other UK institutions after Brexit, as to many international players, such as the USA and China, Belfast would be considered "just down the road" from the EU.
Queen's contributes an estimated £1 billion a year to the economy. It employs 3,700 staff and supports more than 9,250 jobs.
In the last financial year it secured more than £100 million in new research grants and contracts.