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Because of the retirement of Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Tony Stevenson, the chairing of the University’s Europe Steering Group has transferred to Professor Richard Davies, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Engagement and Internationalisation. Prof Davies provides an update on a meeting of the group earlier this week and recent Brexit-related issues.

I am pleased to have picked up the reins from Tony on this extremely important topic and will keep staff updated, as far as is possible. You will know from the almost daily media headlines that Brexit continues to dominate the political agenda and I hope to provide some clarity on the issues that could affect the University. 

Research and Education

The much-anticipated UK Government paper on research collaboration with the EU has now been published: 

The report acknowledges the UK’s success in Horizon 2020 so far. However, it does not reference the issue of continued participation in Horizon 2020 from March 2019 until the end of the programme because this is an issue to be resolved as part of the financial settlement. But it does start to make the right noises.

As part of the Russell Group and UUK lobbying, we will continue to raise concerns with the Government about the risk of a ‘cliff-edge’ for research if this cannot be agreed. We also need to secure agreement as soon as possible since European partners will already be starting to think about organising consortia for Horizon 2020 projects starting in 2019.

Despite this uncertainty, we have had some very positive news over the summer. You may recall a recent NU Connections article which celebrated our 100th Horizon 2020/EU award. Since this article, we have been involved in a further nine successful Horizon 2020 projects one of which is coordinated by the University. These projects are undergoing contractual preparation and we expect that the total awarded funding will be around £4million.

We’ve also received four Erasmus+ grants - one again coordinated by Newcastle. European Research Council Starting Grant 2017 call results have just been announced and we’re pleased that the UK will host the highest number of awards - 79 out of the total 406. We’re also pleased that one of the ERC awards is currently making its way to Newcastle University. My deepest congratulations to all those involved in these bids.

So in summary there are lots of immediate positives for the UK in terms of ongoing participation in EU research and education projects. However, there is still the same level of uncertainty in terms of our engaging with these opportunities post-March 2019.

European branch campuses 

Although there has been some media coverage of some English universities setting up branch campuses in continental Europe as a potential mechanism to continue to access research funding, it would be important to weigh up the potential benefits in doing so.  There are no current plans for Newcastle University to extend beyond the four campuses (Newcastle, London, Singapore and Malaysia) that we presently operate. 

Support for EU staff

An interest-free loan scheme is still available to help staff and their dependents to secure the right to permanently live and work in the UK. The scheme can assist with costs associated with applying for British Citizenship, Permanent Residency (for EEA citizens) or Indefinite Leave to Remain (for other visa nationals). 

In addition to our interest-free staff loan scheme, the University will reimburse the costs of Permanent Residence applications made by members of staff, their partners and dependent children.

Gaining confirmation from UKVI of Permanent Residence status is not a guarantee of future entitlement to live and work in the UK under any new post-Brexit immigration system, but it is a process which many EEA nationals are choosing to take during these uncertain times.

More information on how to apply is available on the BREXIT pages on the staff website

EU Students and Erasmus

One of the key decisions made in response to Brexit was to confirm that any EU students enrolling in 2018/19 would continue to pay Home Student fees throughout the course of their studies.

The decision means EU students applying for an undergraduate or master’s course at an English university or further education institution in the 2018 to 2019 academic year will continue to have access to student loans and grants, even if the course concludes after the UK’s exit from the EU.

EU nationals will also remain eligible to apply for Research Council PhD studentships at UK institutions for 2018 to 2019 to help cover costs for the duration of their study.

It is pleasing to see that the overall expected intake of EU students this September has remained strong (1,034, compared with 996 in 2016, an increase of 3.8%). Undergraduate and Taught Postgraduate EU numbers have been particularly buoyant, showing increases of 1.13% and 17.1% respectively, whereas Postgraduate Research firm acceptances have fallen by 22.9% (64 acceptances this year, compared with 83 in 2016). Applications and acceptances from EU students continue to be closely monitored.

Lobbying and communications

One of the main roles of the European Steering Group is to input into the lobbying efforts of the Russell Group and UUK. You may remember that earlier this year we submitted evidence to a House of Commons Select Committee into the impact on HE of Brexit and Tony contributed to the oral hearing. 

We are now providing evidence to another independent committee to the government - the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) – who have invited universities to submit evidence on the economic and social impact of the UK’s exit from the EU. 

The call for evidence will be used by government to inform the nature of the future immigration system post-Brexit. We will be providing our input to support and help inform UUK’s submission of a sector-wide response. 

The deadline is Friday 22nd September and I will share a copy of our evidence on the Brexit pages on the staff homepage.

UUK last week published a briefing proposing a package of ‘stability measures’ which the government should implement to provide greater short- to medium-term stability for universities and researchers.  

International Welcome Week

And finally, we are doing all we can to celebrate our international students in the University and the city.  From Tuesday 19 September to Friday 22 September, we will be running our annual International Welcome Week which will feature a series of informational sessions and workshops to ease the transition process of the international students. A number of social events are also planned to help the students meet new people, explore the city and have fun during their first week. 

The International Welcome Programme culminates with the City and University Welcome Reception 

in the Students’ Union. 

Professor Richard Davies, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Engagement and Internationalisation 


 

published on: 14th September 2017

 

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