Brexit could hit funding for north's universities, report warns

Universities including Queen's in Belfast could be hit by Brexit, a report has warned

BREXIT could affect universities' ability to carry out research, the Royal Irish Academy has warned.

A report from a taskforce, led by former Ulster University Vice Chancellor Professor Gerry McKenna, found that the north will be badly affected by the loss of European Union funds.

It said the north's universities, which are already underfunded, could lose money for essential research and skills.

The report made several recommendations including keeping fees at their present level and increased support for all-Ireland university bodies. It suggested that if funding from EU projects is halted after Brexit the British government should match and ring-fence the same funds.

Professor McKenna said the north's higher education sector could become isolated from both Britain and the Republic.

He said there was a "real danger that post-Brexit, individual universities and research funding agencies in the UK and Ireland, while recognising the mutual potential benefits of UK-Ireland collaboration in EU-funded programmes, may not perceive the Northern Ireland universities as being essential to their strategic plans".

“In such a scenario the local universities could find themselves relatively isolated, both within the UK and on the island of Ireland. Such a scenario would be detrimental to Northern Ireland and in contravention of the objectives of the Good Friday Agreement," he said.

Meanwhile, NUS-USI president Olivia Potter-Hughes has said there must be no decrease in international students in the north after the UK leaves the EU.

Ms Potter-Hughes was responding to news that international students are worth £170m to the Northern Ireland economy.

"We believe guarantees are vital to protect student and apprentice mobility cross-border, and we want the common travel area to be protected," she said.

"NUS-USI also believes continued access to EU funding on teaching and learning, EU student and academic mobility and exchange programmes is essential. Also, there must be no increase in fees or additional barriers put in place for students studying on a cross-border or EU-wide basis."

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