THE BLOG

EU and Higher Education

22/03/2016 10:43 GMT | Updated 23/03/2017 09:12 GMT

Immigration, trade, security, sovereignty; the issues at stake in the EU referendum debate are vast and vital to the future of our country.

In four month's time, we will be faced with one of the most important choices of a generation. The arguments are complex and diverse, but for those of us who are passionate about Higher Education, the choice is simple.

It would be easy to dismiss Higher Education as insignificant in this debate, but that would be to overlook the impact of European Union funding and support for innovation, education and economic regeneration across the country and particularly in the South West.

Cornwall still qualifies for significant funding from the EU as the county's economic performance is below 75% of the European Union average. This funding has meant that over the past 15 years, Falmouth University has benefited from over £100 million in investment from the EU.

Thanks to that funding, at Falmouth University we are reversing the Cornish brain drain and driving local economic growth. The money is helping us develop world-class facilities and educational opportunities in Cornwall, provide a skilled graduate workforce, foster innovation and create high-value jobs in the region.

Additionally, our place in Europe puts us at the heart of a connected network of universities which means that we are able to attract researchers and academics who are leaders in their field.

Universities for Europe claims that research with international collaborators has nearly 50% more impact than research done at national level. At Falmouth, our Games Academy is home to the European Research Area Chair for Digital Games Technology, Professor Simon Colton, who is exploring the field of computational creativity, an area of fascinating growth and potential.

For all British universities, it's essential that there are no barriers to cross border collaboration; the sharing of knowledge, resources and inspiration. These partnerships are contributing to ground-breaking discoveries in medicine and physics, to the invention of new products and materials and to a thriving creative environment.

Particularly as an arts university, where we draw on social and cultural issues to explore the world around us, we understand the shared European story. Our imagination is fired by new influences and sustained by our creative and connected communities.

At Falmouth we have over 300 international students from 53 countries studying with us and many of our academic team are from beyond our shores. Over 200,000 UK students have studied and worked in Europe through the Erasmus programme and over 125,000 EU students are currently studying at UK universities. This exchange is an invaluable opportunity for young people to experience other languages and cultures and the presence of international students on our campuses enriches our environment, broadening conversations, horizons and ambitions.

Not only would leaving the EU mean new barriers for those, from inside and outside Europe, who want to work and study in the UK, it would also throw up obstacles to the flow of ideas and creativity.

I recognise that the EU isn't perfect and our membership isn't without its drawbacks. I know that the arguments can often be confusing, but I am clear that 'Brexit' would damage the work that British universities are doing to foster innovation, drive economic growth and generate jobs here in the UK for generations to come.