After Brexit: How will this affect UK-EU higher education collaboration?

SOURCE: Dustin Tramel/Unsplash
UK's higher education sector is currently under a transition period until the end of 2020.

By U2B Staff 

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In light of Brexit, which became official just last week, higher education and research organisations are looking into how this impacts transnational knowledge transfer, research and student mobility as the UK transitions out of the European Union. 

Universities UK, a prominent organisation unifying higher education decision makers from universities in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, along with several other organisations across the UK and Europe have reaffirmed their commitment to maintaining their current relationships in knowledge and student exchange. 

These groups, including the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the European University Association (EUA) as well as 36 major domestic and international organisations and 24 National University representative bodies, are asking relevant governments and the European Commission to ensure a concrete agreement on the UK’s full association to Erasmus+ and Horizon Europe before the end of 2020. 


The UK has officially left the European Union last week and with that, it is entering a post-Brexit transition period between now and 31 December 2020. 

Within this transitionary period, the UK will continue its international exchange of students and building research strategies as a full member of Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020. There will be no changes to the extent of the UK’s participation in these programmes of student, staff and research exchange, and all ongoing research projects will continue as planned even if they run past 31 December 2020. 

Researchers based in UK higher education institutions are still able to bid for and participate in all Horizon 2020 calls issued before 31 December 2020. The European Commission will also continue to fund ongoing projects and successful grants awarded during the current duration. 

Students enrolled in the 2020/2021 term can still benefit from the Erasmus+ programme. Source: Hellolightbulb/Unsplash.

Staff and students in UK universities can also complete their current mobility periods and receive funding through the Erasmus+ programme for the full length of the project. Universities will also be able to bid for Erasmus+ funding until the end of the current run of the programme in 2020. 

Besides that, financial aid will continue to be provided throughout this transitional period. This includes the eligibility for the home fee status and student support for EU students enrolled in 2020/21 courses in the UK as well as eligibility for the EU Settlement Scheme for EU, European Economic Area (EEA) or Swiss citizens and their family members who are residing in UK before 31 December 2020. 

Despite the establishment of the transitionary period, this still leaves room for plenty of uncertainty in higher education for the UK and EU beyond 2020. 

Policymakers, governments and international organisations will spend most of this year to strategise and establish perimeters for further collaboration between the two regions after the inevitable split. 


In fact, institutions are well on their way to dealing with a post-Brexit environment. For instance, Universities UK has put forth a briefing that outlines a list of recommendations for the relevant governments to secure an effective post-Brexit settlement that maximises the potential of UK universities on the global scale in terms of student exchange, research and collaboration. 

Individual institutions are also taking a preemptive step forward to establishing more research partnerships with individual EU institutions.  

The University of Nottingham, for instance, announced a research partnership with the University of Tübingen and revealed a multi-million-pound fund to establish the institution in Europe’s biggest research programme, Clean Sky 2.