Britain is home of many of the world’s leading universities and its education system out performs some bigger European countries, according to studies.
Yet Britain’s place in the European Union is inextricably linked to this success, campaigners for Britain to remain in the EU have said.
While those backing Brexit have argued that money we spend on the EU could be directed back to universities.
In support of remaining
Universities UK, the group of vice-chancellors, intervened in the referendum debate earlier this year to support the campaign for Britain to remain in the EU.
The organisation argued that there are 125,000 EU students at British universities, generating more than £2.2bn for the economy and creating 19,000 jobs.
It said 14 percent of academic staff come from other EU nations and that research funding from Brussels is worth £1bn a year.
The quality of research is enhanced, it added, through European Union cooperation - benefiting the economy and helping British academics to tap into a “continent-wide” pool of knowledge.
Erasmus+ is a well known programme allowing 250,000 undertake cultural and educational exchanges throughout Europe over seven years.
The scheme provides Britain with funding of around €1bn over this period.
While some members of Erasmus are not members of the European Union, after a referendum removed freedom of movement for workers Switzerland had access to Erasmus revoked by the EU.
What does the EU do for education?
- Funds research at British universities to a proportion of around 30%, above the government's contribution in some cases
- Funds innovative training and learning programmes for young people not in employment, education or training
- Contributes to big capital spending projects on buildings and facilities at universities
- Allows freedom of movement for a large proportion of UK academics and educators
- Funds British students to study abroad through Erasmus
The European Social Fund (ESF) is cited by some campaigners as an example of how the EU can provide better learning opportunities to young people.
The ESF funded support for young people aged 14-19 who were not in employment, education or training and who may have had barriers to learning.
The government’s website said that the ESF has previously been used to fund different types of learning and support that might not otherwise have been offered.
This was part of an EU-wide project and will continue until 2020, the Government said.
In support of leaving
Leading Leave campaigners have said that Brexit would not deter EU students from applying to British universities.
Yet were numbers of EU students were to fall, the increase in international fees applied to those who wanted to study in the UK could help plug a funding gap, it has been argued.
Jamie Martin, a Brexit campaigner and former government education advisor, wrote last month: “This would create a windfall for universities that could be spent on scholarships for the brightest or help for students from poorer backgrounds.”
Vote Leave has countered claims that leaving the EU would end government plans to expand apprenticeships.
They say the stronger economy brought about by Brexit would fund apprenticeships and training.
Fears over generous EU grants to universities have been allayed by campaign promises over how current subsidies would be spent.
Employment minister Priti Patel told the Today programme last week: “There would be more than enough money to ensure that those who now get funding from the EU, including universities, scientists, farmers, regional funds, would continue to get money.”
And Patel told the HuffPost-Telegraph EU Debate on Tuesday: “I’m pretty positive in terms of the future for students if we were to leave, on the basis that not just to secure and safeguard university funding... we currently send money to Brussels and we’d have that money back in this country to spend on priorities such as universities.”
The #EURef environment effect in brief
If we Remain:
- Grants towards research would continue
- Links between European universities would continue unchanged
- Britain’s membership of Erasmus+ would continue
- British laws are required to reflect EU policy
If we Leave:
- All EU funding of research would end
- EU funding for apprenticeships and training would end
- Britain’s membership of Erasmus+ would be uncertain
- Britain’s contribution to the EU would end