09/09/2015 00:01 BST | Updated 08/09/2016 06:12 BST

Universities Head Calls For UK To Remain In European Union

The UK's membership of the European Union is vital to the success of the country's universities - contributing to economic growth, employable graduates and cutting edge research discoveries, the president of Universities UK will say today.

EU membership "makes the UK's outstanding universities even stronger", Professor Dame Julia Goodfellow is expected to tell university chiefs.

In her first major speech in the role, she will also call on the Government to support universities in other key areas, such as by committing to closing the gap between the UK's investment in research and innovation and that of its major international competitors.

She will also ask for support in attracting qualified international students and staff to UK institutions by "presenting a welcoming climate for genuine international students and ensuring that visa and immigration rules and procedures are proportionate".

She will address vice-chancellors at University UK's annual conference alongside Universities Minister Jo Johnson, who has also been invited to speak at the event hosted by the University of Surrey.

"In the referendum debate, universities must stand up and be counted," Prof Goodfellow will say. "We should be a powerful and positive voice."

On teaching excellence and student funding, she is expected to say: "Teaching excellence can only be delivered with stable and sustainable funding. This is essential to allow universities to continue to deliver a high-quality learning experience for students.

"Remember, our graduates are our teachers, our doctors, our engineers, innovators and wealth-creators."

And in response to the question, "is a degree still worth it?", she will say: "Official figures show that 94% of graduates are in work or study three-and-a-half years after graduation and over 80% of those employed are in professional, graduate jobs. Our graduates also earn almost £10,000 a year more than people without degrees."

She will add: "The UK is acknowledged for its world-leading research power.

"However, the UK has invested significantly less in research as a proportion of GDP than the OECD and EU averages. There is a real question about how long this position will last, if investment levels by the UK continue to lag behind our competitors. We must act now, or the UK's position will be further challenged.

"We continue to urge the Government to remove international students from their net migration target. They come to the UK, study for a period, and then the overwhelming majority go home."