In this second contribution of the day Lord Bilimoria notes the effect of uncertainty stemming from the EU referendum on the universities. He stresses the contributions of the EU and foreign nationals to UK universities through both funding but also through collaborations in areas such as research. He states that this is in jeopardy and asks the Minister to give as much certainty as possible in this area.

European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill

01 March 2017

Moved by Lord Teveson:

Discussing amendment 11

11: Clause 1, page 1, line 5, at end insert—

“( ) Section 3(2) of the European Union (Amendment) Act 2008 does not apply to subsection (1), and in subsection (1) the term “EU” does not include the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom).”

Lord Bilimoria:

My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Balfe: we are talking about people. The greatest issue arising from the European Union referendum is the uncertainty that it is causing, in every aspect of our lives. Amendment 29 talks specifically about the priorities of the UK’s higher education institutions, students and academics. Our universities are the jewel in the crown of Britain. They are the best in the world, along with those of the United States of America, and international students contribute up to £14 billion to our economy. Yet Cambridge University has just announced a 14% drop in students applying from the European Union. I declare my interests as a chancellor of the University of Birmingham and as chair of the advisory board of the University of Cambridge Judge Business School. I am also president of UKCISA, the UK Council for International Student Affairs, which represents the 450,000 international students in this country, of which 180,000 are from the European Union.

This is not just about the money; it is about what these students contribute to our universities. They enrich the experience of our domestic students and they build lifelong bridges between our country and their countries around the European Union, with friendships that last for generations. Our international students and universities are one of the strongest elements of soft power that exists in this country. It is not only the students but also the academics at our universities, up to 20% of whom are from the European Union.

When it comes to research, the amendment speaks about Horizon 2020 and European research area programmes. A lot of funding comes into our universities from the European Union. For example, the University of Cambridge—at the top of the list, I think—took about £100 million of funding. But again, it is not just the funding that is in jeopardy. The Government might say, “We will replace that funding”. But what is at stake are the collaborations we might lose out on. The power of collaborative research is extraordinary. At the University of Birmingham, our field-weighted citation impact is 1.87 when we do our own research; Harvard University’s is 2.4 when it does its own research. But when we do combined research with Harvard University, the figure is 5.69. That is the power of collaborative research—and I am proud to be an alumnus of the Harvard Business School.

When you put all that together—the students, academics and research funding from the European Union, as well as our collaborative research with the European Union—it is all in jeopardy, all under threat and all uncertain. Could the Minister give us as much certainty as possible about this vital area of our economy?

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