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Volume 653: debated on Thursday 24 January 2019

9. What recent discussions he has had with representatives of the university sector on the UK leaving the EU. (908754)

Ministers and officials engage extensively with the university sector to understand their issues with and priorities for EU exit. I have held a number of bilateral meetings with university leaders and, later this afternoon, I will join the Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Chris Skidmore), for my regular EU exit meeting with the sector.

Both of my large universities in Canterbury tell me that they have had no communication whatever from the Brexit Secretary, his Ministers or his Department. Given that 10% of their students and 25% of their staff are from the EU, and they are heavily involved in research programmes, as we have heard this morning, will the Minister or his Department reach out to my universities? I am sure that he will be welcome in Canterbury.

I would be happy to do that. We have had contact with universities directly and through their various representative bodies—Universities UK, the Russell Group, MillionPlus and so on. I am happy to ensure that those universities have been contacted directly by our Department, because it is important that we engage with all universities on such matters.

A number of university students have been traumatised by remainers saying that they will no longer be able to participate in the Erasmus programme. Will my hon. Friend—if he is not right honourable, he should be—reassure them that the programme is open not only to students in the European Union, but to those in Canada, Israel and other countries outside the EU?

My hon. Friend has made an excellent point. The Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Kwasi Kwarteng), mentioned Israel in this context earlier. It is true that Erasmus has a number of non-EU participants, and it is clear that the UK has ambitions to continue its cultural co-operation with the EU even after we have left.