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House of Commons Hansard
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Horizon 2020/University Admissions
14 December 2017
Volume 633
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7. What assessment he has made of the effect of the UK leaving the EU on (a) UK participation rates in Horizon 2020 and (b) university admissions. [902934]

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The latest figures from the Commission show that the UK has the second highest number of participations in Horizon 2020 out of all countries, with 8,056 participations to date, which is 12.6% of the total. Higher and secondary education organisations are performing particularly well, ranking first for participations and agreed funding. The majority of mobile EU students who study in Europe choose to do so in the UK, and 2017 data on applications for full-time higher education indicates that the number of international students who want to study in the UK is higher than it was in 2016. Although there was a slight dip in EU student applications in 2017 versus 2016, EU-domiciled applications were still higher than they were in 2015, 2014 or 2013.

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Will the Minister confirm that the Government will seek to secure an early agreement with the EU on arrangements for underwriting Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+ bids for their full duration, up to the end of the programmes?

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I refer the hon. Lady to the positive news in the joint statement that was agreed last week, which reflects the fact that we have agreed to work together on these matters. For the length of the Horizon 2020 programme, up to 2020, we will continue to be able to bid into the scheme.

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When we discussed this matter last month, the Minister brushed aside concerns about the falling participation rates of UK researchers in Horizon 2020 projects, but since then, as he will know, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has confirmed that in figures it has published. If participation continues to fall at that rate, by March 2019 we will have dropped by two thirds, which will be a significant blow for UK research. What assessment has the Minister made of those figures and what is he going to do about it?

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The figures actually show that the UK’s funding share is holding up extremely well, which shows how competitive we are.

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It has fallen.

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The hon. Gentleman says it has fallen, but it has fallen from 15.3% to 14.7%. That is 15% either way. I think the joint statement will reassure people that they can continue to bid and to participate in these schemes and that the UK will continue to benefit from them, and we want to ensure that that is the case. Of course, we also want to explore the potential for a strong future relationship with the EU in this space.

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May I suggest two specific things that the Minister can do? Will he confirm that applications that are not fully signed off at the point at which we depart from the EU in March 2019 will be fully supported for their entire duration? Will he also say that he will put participation in framework programme 9 and successor programmes at the very heart of the ambitions for negotiating our future relationship with the EU?

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On the second part of the hon. Gentleman’s question, it is clear from the science and research paper that we published earlier this year that that is our ambition. We want to explore all the potential for working with the EU on these issues. On the first part of his question, I refer him back to last week’s joint declaration.