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Brexit: Is funding blow on Horizon for Scottish universities?

Scotland’s universities still do not know whether they will be part of an essential research and revenue stream, with around a month to go before the UK fully leaves the EU.

Dundee University’s vice-principal Wendy Alexander provided evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s culture, tourism, Europe and external affairs committee on Thursday morning. 

Speaking on behalf of Universities Scotland, Ms Alexander said the greatest concern for the country’s higher education institutions ahead of leaving the EU completely was no longer being a member of the Horizon programmes.

The Horizon initiative has seen billions of pounds invested in research across Europe, with Ms Alexander noting more than £755 million has been given to Scottish institutes.

With only 50 days to go until the end of the transition period, it is unclear whether deal negotiations will allow for UK universities, colleges and businesses to apply for the programme.

A “detailed information” website linked from the UK Government’s Brexit information page does not work.

Worth more than £755 million

Ms Alexander said: “These are the six year programmes of research, the most successful European programme and Scotland has done well in it.

“We have won more than £755 million over the last six years (of funding) and all of that will go unless we are participants in the next scheme.”

Ms Alexander added missing out on Horizon would mean international students from outwith the EU would be less likely to come to Scotland, which would impact universities and the economy.

Wendy Alexander.

“These students come to Scotland because of the reputation, fundamentally based on research excellence,” she added.

“We have four out the top 200 universities in the world, these students are coming for that reputation.

“It is at risk if our scientists are excluded from participation in the major European research programmes.”

“The parliament debated how students would be tested, how students get sufficient teaching hours and how we look after students staying over Christmas, which are all huge issues.

“Meanwhile, we are at one minute to midnight. We do not know if Europe’s most successful research programme is something we will be associated to.”

The UK Government was approached for comment.

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