Motion to Take Note
My Lords, the committee’s report on Erasmus and Horizon was published on 12 February, so it has not yet received an official government response. None the less, due to the interest and concern among the public and in this House about the potential impact of Brexit on participants in the Erasmus and Horizon programmes and on the UK’s research and education sectors, I hope that Members of the House will understand why the committee wanted to bring this report to the House for debate now.
The report was drafted following agreement by negotiators on the withdrawal agreement and political declaration in the closing weeks of last year. It therefore considers the implications for UK participation in Erasmus and Horizon of leaving the EU under the terms of the withdrawal agreement compared to a no-deal scenario. Despite the turmoil at the other end of the Palace at the moment, the withdrawal agreement remains the only negotiated deal on the table, and the Prime Minister has certainly shown tenacity in sticking with it.
The inquiry found that, if the withdrawal agreement, or one with similar provisions for UK participation in EU programmes, were to be ratified, our involvement in Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020 could continue largely unchanged until both programmes draw to a close at the end of 2020—an encouraging conclusion, but the end of 2020 is alarmingly close. In a no-deal scenario, which cannot, alas, be ruled out, the situation would be much trickier. At the time our report came out, the Government had said that they wanted to preserve access to both programmes and had issued a guarantee to underwrite funding for UK participants until the end of 2020. This guarantee was, however, contingent on the EU agreeing to continue UK participation as a third country. It was also unclear how the Government intended this guarantee to operate in practice.
Since that time, the EU has pressed forward with its own no-deal contingency plans. For Erasmus, the EU has agreed that Erasmus+ placements active at the point of a no-deal Brexit can continue up to a maximum of 12 months. It is unclear how this would be administered and what advice and support is being offered to UK Erasmus participants. There is no equivalent contingency measure for Horizon 2020. The EU has, however, published a proposal to maintain the UK’s eligibility to receive funding from EU programmes for agreements entered into before the withdrawal date in a no-deal scenario. If adopted, this proposal should ensure that UK research projects, including those funded by bodies such as the European Research Council and Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions, which are not open to third countries, could continue to be financed in 2019. This is subject to the condition that the UK commits to contribute to the financing of the EU 2019 budget and agrees to EU controls and audit requirements. Will the Minister confirm that the Government intend to fulfil those conditions and so avoid disruption for UK beneficiaries of EU spending programmes in a no-deal scenario? I should be grateful if he would also confirm how such a system would be administered.
Whatever the terms of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, it is in our mutual interest to preserve current close levels of UK-EU co-operation on research and innovation to provide opportunities for young people and teachers to study, work and train abroad. The inquiry found—no surprise, perhaps—that the UK is a respected and important partner in the Erasmus and Horizon programmes. It is a popular destination for students from the EU and a world leader in research, with an exceptionally strong science base. It is clear, however, that the benefits of UK participation in these programmes do not flow only one way and that their value cannot be measured simply in financial terms. The inquiry received 50 evidence submissions, as well as oral testimony, and witnesses were unanimously positive about the impact of Erasmus and Horizon on the United Kingdom.
In the first two years of the current programme, Erasmus+ supported nearly 5,000 UK projects and 128,000 UK participants took part in internal exchanges. Although best known as a mobility programme for university students, Erasmus+ also supports study, work and training placements in vocational education and training, adult education and schools. Witnesses to the enquiry called Erasmus,
“an overwhelming force for good”,
“one of the most important achievements of the EU”.
For participants, going on an Erasmus placement leads to better employment outcomes, increased confidence and independent thinking and greater cultural awareness. There are also wider positive implications for the UK including “tangible economic benefit” from international students and higher standards of education resulting from international collaboration, shared innovations and best practice.
Equally important, Erasmus helps to increase opportunities for people from disadvantaged or under- represented groups. Time and again, throughout the inquiry, we heard how much they gain from outward student mobility and how much they would lose if the UK loses access to Erasmus as a result of Brexit.
As for Horizon 2020, the UK has been the second most successful country in terms of funding received and the most successful in terms of participant and co-ordinator numbers. According to statistics published just last week, the UK was the most successful country in the most recent funding round of the European Research Council, with 47 of a total of 222 projects to be hosted by UK institutions.
The UK’s research community does not just benefit financially from participation in Horizon 2020. As the largest multilateral international research programme in the world, Horizon 2020 provides a platform for international research collaboration, providing access to large-scale research infrastructure and facilities and supporting the mobility of the most talented researchers across Europe.
Horizon adds value in other areas, too. For example, the prestigious reputation of EU research programmes helps to attract the best staff from around the world to UK research institutions, and the critical mass and strategic co-ordination across Europe has increased efficiency and reduced duplication. Being part of Horizon and its predecessors has been pivotal in raising the standard of research in the UK and developing the thriving science and research community we enjoy today.
Given the strength of the evidence that the inquiry received on the importance of the Erasmus and Horizon programmes to the UK, it is unsurprising that the committee concluded that the UK should make every effort to remain involved in these programmes. Fortunately, this is, in theory at least, a perfectly feasible option. Negotiations are under way on the successor programmes to Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020—Erasmus and Horizon Europe, which will run from 2021 to 2027. The draft regulations for both provide for full or partial third-party access to them.
The committee concluded that, to preserve current close levels of co-operation on research and innovation and educational mobility, the UK should seek full access to the Erasmus and Horizon Europe programmes as an associated third country. This would of course mean making financial contributions to the programme budgets, but the committee concluded that this would be an essential investment to maintain UK access to all Erasmus and Horizon funding streams and international collaboration opportunities, which raise the standard of education and support excellent science in the UK.
Associate membership would not give the UK voting rights on the budget and strategic direction of the programmes, but the committee was reassured that the strength of the UK’s science base would ensure that the UK remains an influential player in European research and innovation. Association is also the only option that would allow the UK to access the key European Research Council and Marie Skłodowska-Curie schemes, which currently account for 44% of the total UK receipts from Horizon 2020.
The committee concluded that alternative UK funding schemes would be needed if the Government are not willing or able to secure association to these programmes. However, it would be a formidable and risky challenge to try to replicate at a national level the substantial benefits that participation in Erasmus and Horizon brings to the UK. Happily, statements made by the UK Government and EU institutions in recent months indicate that both sides want a close future relationship on science and innovation, youth, culture and education, which we welcome.
It is not possible to begin negotiations on association agreements to the 2021-27 Erasmus and Horizon Europe programmes while they are under negotiation and while the UK is still a member state, but our report calls on the Government to confirm as soon as possible that they intend to seek association. That will maximise certainty and stability for UK students and researchers, and enable them to plan for any changes. I hope that the Minister can give that assurance. In this context, I would be grateful if he could comment on the Written Statement made to this House on 26 March by the noble Lord, Lord Henley, on the Adrian Smith review and its implications for future UK association with Horizon Europe.
Erasmus provides huge benefits to the next generation of British citizens. Horizon supports the excellence of research in our universities. We simply must, in both our and the wider European interest, maintain as close co-operation as we can with Erasmus and Horizon in the future. I beg to move.
My Lords, I will not rehearse the many benefits of the UK’s participation in the Horizon and Erasmus programmes. The noble Lord, Lord Jay, has already done that admirably and they are set out in detail in his committee’s report. I will simply say this: they have been very successful programmes in which the UK has played a hugely important part. There can be no doubt that our participation in them has been beneficial to the UK and UK universities, colleges and others. I know that the Minister will not demur.
Of course I support the committee’s recommendation that we should seek to remain part of those programmes in the future, but I want to focus on the possibility that we may leave the EU without a deal on 12 April. By the end of this week, we may be able to rule out what I believe to be an awful prospect, but it clearly remains possible—some might even say likely. This House must use its influence to press the Government to do all they possibly can to prepare to mitigate the consequences of that outcome. Just three weeks ago, I asked a Question about the continued funding of these two programmes. I was supported across the House but I received no reassurance from the Minister. He referred to the Spring Statement but that did not give any answers either. I followed it up with a Written Question. I make no apologies for trying again.
I will use my intervention to ask the Minister to answer four extremely important, pressing and specific questions relating to both Horizon and Erasmus. First, will the Government commit to provide funding for a UK alternative to the European Research Council and Marie Curie grants in 2019 and 2020 if we cannot take part in those schemes following a no-deal exit? No such commitment has yet been given. If we are shut out of these elements of the Horizon programme, the UK research system will lose more than £1 billion compared to what we might have expected to win if we remained eligible. That would be a significant cut and there would be no time to prepare. Many research stars who will have already prepared applications may decide to go elsewhere in Europe to ensure that they can still draw on these prestigious grants. Will the Minister use his influence with his colleague the right honourable Damian Hinds MP, to urge the Treasury not to allow this to happen?
Secondly, what will happen to researchers in the middle of the grant preparation process with the European Commission or the European Research Council if the UK leaves the EU without a deal? Will these so-called in-flight applications be covered by the Government’s financial underwrite?
Thirdly, will the Government commit to funding opportunities for UK students to study abroad in 2019 and 2020 if we cannot continue to be part of the Erasmus scheme? Students expecting to go abroad in 2019 will have already made plans. Around 17,000 UK students would have been expecting to call on Erasmus grant funding to support their studies abroad. They are now in limbo. Will the Government commit to funding a UK alternative scheme for these students if we are frozen out of Erasmus?
Finally, can the Minister confirm the fee status of EU students who want to study in the UK, beginning their courses in 2020? The recruitment cycle is now well under way and we still do not know what universities should tell prospective EU students. This is for the Government to decide because it is a matter of law. It is likely that EU student recruitment will be hit because of Brexit. The UK Government risk making this worse by refusing to state one way or another the status of EU students and whether they will pay home or international fees.
These are just four of the many hundreds of questions that universities and their representative bodies, including Universities UK, have been asking the Government. They are questions to which only the Government can provide an answer—unlike many other areas of uncertainty, which are dependent on negotiations with the EU. Together, they represent four areas in which the UK risks inflicting further and unnecessary damage on our universities and research system over and above what would follow from a no-deal exit, which may be outside the Government’s control.
Where my questions relate to financial issues, I want to spell something out: the Government have committed to provide funding via the EU to allow UK universities to participate in Erasmus and Horizon if there is a deal. In the no-deal scenario, in which money would not pass from the UK to Brussels but would remain in the UK, the Government could decide to use it for the same purpose. In short, the Government appear willing to pay for the ERC and Erasmus if there is a deal, but will use that money for something else if there is no deal. That cannot be right. “Taking back control” should not mean inflicting further unnecessary economic damage on ourselves.
I was not able to give the Minister these questions in advance as I would have liked. I doubt that he will be able to answer them all, although I know that they have been much debated in Whitehall, so I urge him to commit to returning to this House with answers as soon as he can—certainly before 12 April if that really does look like it will be the day of our departure. I promise to stop asking the questions if we get some answers.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Jay, for bringing forward the debate and for chairing the committee—of which I am a member—inquiry into another range of issues that must be addressed urgently if they are not to be disrupted by the Brexit process. This would be a great loss to UK students and universities, as well as to the UK, whether in financial, reputational or economic terms.
These are two huge success stories of EU achievement and UK participation. Erasmus offers individuals mobility of study and benefits in gaining skills and jobs, and offers universities the establishment of international bases for courses. It also provides opportunities for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, or with disabilities or special needs. Horizon 2020, with its major contributions to research and innovation in the UK, enhances the UK’s reputation on an international stage, enabling access to world-class research facilities and attracting top-class academic experts and researchers to the UK and UK institutions.
Erasmus+ and its predecessor are of particular interest to me as I am a former language teacher. I believe that the programme is best known for providing international opportunities to study for HE students, particularly in terms of learning foreign languages, the understanding and appreciation of diverse cultures, the acquisition of globally recognised skills and learning, along with the gaining of successful employment and future opportunities. It also provides opportunities to work and study abroad for a whole range of other participants, including college students and adult learners who may be in full or part-time study, and students from disadvantaged backgrounds, many of whom may never have travelled further than their own town. As a teacher I encountered many young people who learned so much from having their horizons broadened. The report cites an example of a young woman who spent time in Seville. She went on to become student of the year at her college.
It is important to point out that the next multiannual financial framework, for 2021 to 2027, makes proposals for major investment in the greater participation of students with disabilities or learning difficulties. This will be a key priority. Equally, pupils in schools or in youth work schemes have been funded by Erasmus+. An example is instanced in the report of a partnership working with youth groups in Northern Ireland, rebuilding relationships within that community following the Troubles there. No other project offers such flexibly funded opportunities to these students, who would lose out significantly should there be any downgrading of the UK’s commitment to Erasmus.
Although our witnesses welcomed the commitment by the Government to underwrite the funding for successful bids to EU programmes, if the UK leaves without a deal, great concern will be expressed without exception for the likely impact on both programmes of this happening, as the noble Baroness, Lady Warwick, has just told us. The consequences are well documented in the report. They range from the complete disruption in the event of a failure to agree terms with the EU for UK organisations to continue to participate; to the potential of students to end schemes early and go home, resulting in the need for universities to review and perhaps discontinue courses at short notice, with a subsequent lack of jobs followed by measures to limit spending on projects, again at short notice. This could result in a lack of confidence in UK educational institutions that will take many years to recover from, in terms of their international reputations.
The report recommends that the Government should urgently clarify how they intend to operate the underwrite guarantee to minimise disruption for UK participants changing over to a new system. As has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Jay, the withdrawal agreement offers hope for the programme to continue on to 2020, but 2020 is getting very close. As he also said, all our witnesses were convinced that the only way forward would be in a full partnership association with both projects.
Third-country status would greatly limit the UK’s ability to influence the Erasmus programme strategically, although we were reassured that the meetings operate collaboratively and that all countries are treated as valued partners. As a third country, the UK would have only observer status in the Horizon Europe programme and, again, no strategic influence on its direction.
The witnesses we heard from were all extremely concerned that both the immediate and the longer-term future involvement of the UK in those two highly successful projects was at risk in current circumstances. The Government’s assurances of support are welcome but as yet unspecified and without detail, so that existing participants in these schemes are unclear as to how they are to continue. The next cycle is about to be finalised, with even greater resource investment planned for the next six years, but yet again the UK’s position is far from clear.
I too would like to put some questions to the Minister. What progress is being made in settling the terms for UK organisations to continue to participate in Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020 projects as third-country entities following exit from the EU? Will the Government clarify the terms of the underwrite guarantee by saying how payments will be made and by whom? Also, what terms and conditions will apply to organisations in order for them to benefit? What actions have the Government taken with regard to UK involvement as a closely associated third-party partner in the proposals for 2021 to 2027?
I hope that the Minister will be able to give us some replies to these questions, but if that needs to be done in written form, that will be helpful too. These are two of the most successful, prestigious and high-profile projects. The UK has participated in them and has gained great reputational value by showing the excellence of our own educational and research institutions. I very much hope that we will be given a firm commitment that they should continue.
My Lords, this is becoming a debate with a single message for the Minister. I think that this is a compelling report. I declare an interest as a member of the sub-committee of my noble friend Lord Jay and I pay tribute to his chairmanship. The report is a clear statement of a complex set of issues with, to my mind, a great deal of compelling evidence. As the noble Baroness, Lady Janke, has just said, it demonstrates that these are two of the most successful EU programmes from which the UK has derived enormous benefit. Down the years they have had a real impact on the lives of many thousands of young people—including, incidentally, my two children. They have also enabled the British university sector to establish its unrivalled international networks and countless projects that probably would not have been funded without Horizon 2020. It would be a disaster if access to all this were cut off or seriously reduced, just as both programmes are expanding enormously for the period 2021 to 2027.
As others have said, at least if the withdrawal agreement is agreed, there is a breathing space until the end of the transition period at the end of 2020. That is a short time, but it is better than nothing. However, I am much more concerned about what will happen in the event of no deal, which is certainly not impossible if the gridlock in the House of Commons continues until 12 April.
Let me briefly take each programme in turn. Clearly there would be a diminished British role in Horizon Europe even if we had a transition period and negotiated an association agreement. I remind noble Lords that, as the report states, the UK has been “disproportionately successful” in winning grants under the Horizon scheme, with more than 15% of the total. There will be financial rebalancing arrangements in the future programme that will ensure that the UK can no longer be a net beneficiary. Basically, we will take out more or less what we put in, so there will be a shortfall even in the event of an association agreement, because Britain will no longer be a net beneficiary of the very large sums of money available under Horizon.
From what I hear from the universities I have contact with, no deal presents a real systemic risk to the international networks that they have built up. In part that is because, if we cease to be a member of the European Union, it will pose problems for many projects where the quota for the required number of members from the European Union may well make it impossible for us to continue. Moreover, the international nature of our university sector comes out in everything one reads from university leaders. I shall quote from the recent address made by the president of Imperial College, Professor Alice Gast:
“We are international. Our international community, our collaborations, our partnerships, and our own experiences in other cultures and places have an immeasurable and profound effect on the world”.
Professor Gast is right, and Horizon has been a vital part of that. Perhaps this question has already been put to the Minister in other ways, but I would be interested to know whether there are plans to make good the funding gap that would arise even in the case of a withdrawal agreement, given that in those circumstances we shall be getting less back from Horizon than we put in?
I understand that the Commission’s guidance is that in the case of no deal there will be no new financial commitments for UK applicants. As the noble Lord, Lord Jay, said, it will continue funding provided we continue to pay into the budget for 2019—but nothing beyond. The evidence in our report is that uncertainty is already casting a shadow over the willingness of researchers around the EU to collaborate with British partners in these circumstances. Can the Minister tell us what contingency work is going on to make sure that vital projects can continue after the end of 2019, even in the event of a no-deal Brexit?
It is in Erasmus where the human cost of the current uncertainty is most clear. As the noble Baroness, Lady Janke, said, 17,000 young people are preparing for the exciting opportunity to go abroad under Erasmus in September this year. The Commission said in its guidance that,
“students and trainees abroad participating in Erasmus+ at the time of the UK’s withdrawal can complete their studies and continue to receive … grants”—
but that is as far as clarity goes. Many noble Lords will have seen articles in the media about the problems that is already causing for young people trying to make plans for September this year, including one young lady who told the Guardian that she had been advised to take £1,200 in cash when she went in September, just in case there were problems with the grant and funding. That will certainly exclude disadvantaged people from even thinking about taking up an Erasmus opportunity in those circumstances.
There is also the impact on UK universities of reluctance on the part of EU students to commit to coming here in September. I see that both Spain and Norway are now advising their students to look at countries other than the UK. I wonder whether there is yet any data on the fallout for British universities of declining Erasmus applications for this coming year, because it could be important. I have a particular link with the University of Kent—the UK’s European university, with a wonderful network of four campuses in Europe. It sends a large number of students across Europe and receives a lot as well. I am sure that many others are in the same position. These universities really change the lives of young people using the Erasmus programme. To put into any substitute in place—bilateral links—will take a lot of time, consume a lot of resources and in the end mean that a lot of young people cannot travel and take those opportunities. In my view, we must not jeopardise what has been achieved under these schemes.
My Lords, it is a great pleasure to be able to follow the noble Lord, Lord Ricketts. Sadly, I cannot, as he did, declare an interest as a member of the committee, because when I had the temerity to vote for some amendments to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill last year, I was dismissed from the committee for failing to support the Government. Had the Government listened a little more carefully to some of the amendments we passed in your Lordships’ House, we might not be in the predicament we are in at the moment. But, sufficient for that, this is a very good report, and I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Jay, and his colleagues for producing it. It is a forensic analysis of a very difficult situation and a potentially disastrous one.
The noble Baroness, Lady Warwick of Undercliffe, talked about the problems if there is no deal. I would like every Member of your Lordships’ House, although there are not many, and every one of the ERG and others in the other place who have said they do not mind no deal—some have even said they would relish no deal—to be locked in a room, instructed to read this report, and then to go out of the room and meet 20 or 30 students, their constituents in the case of the other place. This deals a potentially devastating blow to many young people. I speak as the grandfather of two university students, one a postgraduate and the other an undergraduate, both of whom are attracted by the possibility of continuing work and research in other countries. I fervently hope that when we come out we will be able to continue to take advantage, but I take no comfort from the words “until 2020”. That is not good enough. We have got to come to an arrangement with our friends and neighbours so that we can participate as closely as possible for a non-member state from 2021 to 2027 and beyond.
The great Erasmus himself personified one of the fundamentals of civilised truth: learning knows no boundaries. If you prevent or do not assist young people to know other countries as well as their own, you are depriving them. The Erasmus programme has at least one unique feature, in that it gives enhanced grants to the disadvantaged and the disabled. It has every reason to be proud of that. That is very much in the tradition of Erasmus and his time, when all the great institutions of this country and most of those in continental Europe particularly gave of their learning to young men—they were all men in those days, I am afraid—who did not have the advantage of a wealthy background. Much of that learning was given in church institutions, but our own colleges in Oxford and Cambridge and in the Scottish universities very much kept to that tradition. It is something we should not contemplate separating ourselves from.
Horizon 2020 is enormously exciting and invigorating, and the continuation from 2021 to 2027 will be as well. I address these remarks particularly to my noble friend—and he is my friend—on the Front Bench, for whom I have very real affection and regard: please talk to your colleagues in government, because we really have a duty to our young people, and to those pioneers in research and learning of whatever age in our country, to continue to collaborate in the best possible way with our European friends and neighbours, and 2020 is not a satisfactory answer.
With regret, I accept that we are leaving the European Union. I would have voted for the Prime Minister’s deal last week, and I have made that plain in this House on a number of occasions. It would have brought with it some safeguards. Whatever replaces it has got to bring safeguards, and we would be delivering a real blow to the future prospects, hopes and aspirations of our young people if we turned our back on programmes of this nature. We must participate, in association or even as a third country. I was particularly struck by two paragraphs. Paragraph 13, on page 56, says:
“As a non-associated third country, the UK would not even have a seat at the table in Erasmus programme committees”.
Paragraph 19, on the same page, says:
“As an associated third country, the UK would have observer status in Horizon Europe programme committees but no vote”.
That is not good enough; we have got to get it better.
My Lords, I am delighted to speak in this debate and to follow the noble Lord, Lord Cormack. Over the past months and years, he has stood up for what he believes in on European questions, even, as he made clear, to the detriment of his own position on a committee in your Lordships’ House.
Unlike many speakers in this debate, my interest is not that I am a member of your Lordships’ European Union Committee. However, I do have an interest to declare. As an academic at Cambridge University, and reader in European politics, I am actively involved in a whole range of European-funded projects: Horizon 2020 projects, Erasmus+ projects and, slightly more tangentially, a network on the Marie Curie programme. I am not unusual in this. As we have heard, academics in the United Kingdom have benefited more than most from European funding schemes. The United Kingdom has been a significant net beneficiary of EU research and higher education funding.
The UK has always had a rather utilitarian approach to understanding the nature of the European Union. Margaret Thatcher never fully understood that participating in the European Community, as it then was, was not simply about putting money in and getting the same amount of money out; it was about participating in networks and a whole range of policies.
In the area of research, however, the United Kingdom had a very good story to tell. UK research and development is of the highest standard; our universities are some of the best in the world. Our partners across the European Union have been very keen to collaborate with the United Kingdom, and various institutions across the UK have been significant net beneficiaries.
It might seem as though this will be a speech that simply says, “Oh woe is me”, from an academic who has benefited from EU funding and who might be going to lose it. Certainly, during the referendum, there was a lot of suspicion among those advocating Brexit that anyone advocating ongoing membership of the European Union had naked self-interest in doing so. Any beneficiary of EU grant funding was viewed as having a purely personal interest, and therefore not one that should contribute more generally to the debate. However, in the past few days, inevitably there have been letters from Universities UK and the Royal Society stressing the importance of European research collaboration, not just for the individual but for the wider research community and for society as a whole.
While my research might be about social sciences, and perhaps not the blue-sky thinking that research in medicine or other hard sciences might be, for many of those who benefit from funding from the European Research Council and other parts of Horizon 2020 funding, it is about global leadership. As the president of the Royal Society, Venki Ramakrishnan, has stated:
“The UK is a global leader in science because top home-grown and international scientists want to work here. We must do everything we can to ensure that the UK maintains its role at the heart of European science, because that is in everyone’s best interests. If science loses, everyone loses”.
It is not just about the individuals concerned; it is about British scientific research. It is not just about funding; it is about collaborative networks, as other noble Lords have made clear.
If you are a theoretician, your research might be done sitting at your computer, on your own, in isolation. But for most research scientists, research is done in collaborative groups, where the tools of that research are costly. Working together on a transnational basis is far more effective than working in isolation. By leaving the European Union, the danger is that the United Kingdom will cut itself off from some of those key networks. Already, leading European scientists have begun to leave the United Kingdom. They have decided that they would rather hold grants in other European countries. The uncertainty of Brexit means they are no longer sure that they will be welcome in the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom has already lost, before we even leave the European Union.
If we leave the European Union with no deal, this raises huge questions about our ongoing relationship with research funding bodies and collaborative networks across the European Union. We have already heard that, if we have third country status, we will not have a seat at the table or any opportunity to influence research funding priorities. As the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, made clear, that is not desirable. The committee’s report is very clear: if we are to be outside the European Union, it would be better to have associated status, which would at least give us a seat at the table. But we still would not have a vote. It is clearly a suboptimal position to be in. The report also suggests that, if the UK is to leave the European Union with no deal, we should have a UK mobility fund. That is so far second best that I hope we never have to work on that recommendation. It is essential that the Government find a deal that leaves the United Kingdom as an associated third country, able to participate as fully as any third country.
Earlier, I looked round the Chamber in the hope of seeing a Brexiteer who might be listening to the debate. During the referendum, we were reminded on countless occasions—usually by the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, who is not in his place—that it is not necessary to be part of the European Union to be part of Erasmus. It is not necessary to be part of the European Union, but if we are a non-associated third country, our ability to participate in such schemes is much weakened. We need to find ways to be associated. Can the Minister tell us that the Government are trying to achieve that?
My Lords, I welcome this report from the European Union Committee. My contribution will highlight the importance of the Erasmus+ programme in particular to the teaching, learning and use of foreign languages in the UK. The committee touched on the benefits for languages, and I will enlarge on this a little because, like other noble Lords, I hope that tonight we will finally hear some clear and specific news from the Minister which takes us further than what we have heard in answer to questions that I and many others have raised repeatedly over the past couple of years on what happens after the end of 2020.
Several reports have been published recently from a wide range of bodies, including the British Academy, the British Council and the All-Party Group on Modern Languages, of which I am co-chair. All of them show that the UK is facing a crisis of language skills which can no longer be ignored. I will resist the temptation to go into too much detail, but will summarise the problem by saying that the lack of language skills costs our economy an estimated 3.5% of GDP every year; employers are not happy with the foreign language skills either of school leavers or graduates, and rely increasingly on overseas recruitment to meet their needs; 100,000 fewer GCSE language exams were taken in 2015 compared to a decade earlier; and, since 2000, over 50 of our universities have scrapped some or all of their modern language degree courses. This is against a background of the prospect of a post-Brexit world in which the UK seeks to redefine its place, establish leadership in international relations, security and soft power, and negotiate new free trade agreements —all in a world where, contrary to popular myth, 75% of the world’s population do not speak English and where young people will need languages for the culturally agile, mobile and interconnected jobs of the future.
Employers have consistently said how much they value graduates who have had some international and cross-cultural experience, usually by taking a year abroad as part of their degree course, which of course is an option not only for MFL students but for all students. This underlines how important it is that the UK remain a full participating member of the Erasmus+ after Brexit because this will undoubtedly have an impact on the future employability of our young people.
Uncertainty over the UK’s continued participation in Erasmus is one of the reasons for the further drop we have seen in the past year of applications for languages degrees. I cannot emphasise strongly enough how important Erasmus is for giving students—of all disciplines, I emphasise, not only the linguists—the opportunity to improve language skills and develop an international and cross-cultural mindset. These are all qualities which employers value.
A study in the US reported that employers rated these skills even more highly than expertise in STEM subjects, although I hesitate to mention that study given that my noble friend Lord Krebs is sitting in front of me. Perhaps he will be happier to know about another study which showed that graduates of all disciplines who spend a year abroad are 23% less likely to be unemployed than those who do not.
Will the noble Viscount give an assurance that after Brexit the UK will continue to be part of the Erasmus+ programme and that either this will continue beyond 2020 or there will be a like-for-like programme to replace it, with no diminution of funding. If it is to be the latter, will he spell out what plans are in hand? What funding is available for after 2020? What would a replacement scheme look like?
The committee report highlights the many challenges there would be to setting up an alternative scheme, including the point made in evidence to the committee by the University of East Anglia that there is no guarantee that important universities across Europe would all recognise a UK alternative mobility scheme. This strengthens the argument for simply staying inside the Erasmus and Horizon programmes.
This is even more important after the recent announcement by the European Commission that it wants to double the number of Erasmus+ participants by 2025 by ensuring that school pupils as well as under- graduates can benefit from exchanges and placements.
Erasmus+ is also a vital part of the supply chain for MFL teachers. There are now fewer MFL graduates each year than there are MFL teacher training places. Without Erasmus, which supports the third year abroad—the jewel in the crown of most language degrees—a key driver for MFL teacher recruitment would disappear. In addition, MFL teachers identify Erasmus+ as the most frequent source of funded training, and schools use the scheme to provide vital in-service training for existing MFL teachers. The top three destinations for UK participants in Erasmus+ are France, Spain and Germany, precisely the top three modern languages offered in our schools.
The Erasmus+ programme is an integral part of the national recovery programme for languages which the all-party group has recently proposed. We cannot afford to let the national deficit in language skills get any worse. Will the Minister take the opportunity this evening to commit the UK to be a continuing full participant after 2020 in the Erasmus and Horizon successor programmes, rather than short-change our young people and their opportunities and choices for the foreseeable future?
My Lords, I had the pleasure of being a member of the committee which produced this report, under the elegant and efficient chairing of the noble Lord, Lord Jay, and backed up by superb support from our secretariat.
The noble Lord, Lord Jay, has well described both the Erasmus and Horizon programmes and their funding complexities, and I wish to say something particular about the Erasmus programme. Its logo is the profile of Erasmus, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, a great scholar and humanist from the 15th century, whose name is spelled out in the full title of the programme: the European Community Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students—noble colleagues will have to work out that acronym—and it says it all in the word “mobility”. It is a student exchange programme established in 1987 and it is highly successful, with the UK being an important player.
It would be sad if the UK’s standing and collaboration were impaired by Brexit. It was reassuring to hear from those closely involved in the organisation of Erasmus on the UK side that plans were being made to provide continuity for the programme. However, we heard from our witnesses and correspondents described in chapter 3 that, although some short-term certainty for continued and full participation under the withdrawal agreement exists, there is no full-blown optimism. Written evidence from Newcastle University stated:
“Due to uncertainties in the immediate future we remain extremely cautious”.
The Russell Group called attention to concerns that UK students and researchers may not be aware that there were no restrictions on UK participants during any transition period and recommended that the UK Government and the EU Commission communicate this message clearly and widely. In our current state of disarray, we can only hope that accurate information about both the Erasmus and Horizon programmes is being distributed.
The Government’s technical note on Erasmus+ if there is no Brexit deal confirms that they will seek agreement with the EU to allow for continued participation in Erasmus+ projects and bids for new funding until 2020. If discussions with the EU are unsuccessful, the Government will engage in discussions to try to ensure that UK participants can continue as planned.
The Erasmus programme guide to British applicants from the European Commission is somewhat more scary, and states:
“If the UK withdraws from the EU during the grant period without concluding an agreement with the EU, ensuring in particular that British applicants continue to be eligible, you (the applicant) will cease to receive EU funding (while continuing, where possible, to participate), or be required to leave the project on the basis of the relevant provisions of the grant agreement on termination”.
Several witnesses interviewed by our committee thought that the EU would welcome the continued participation of the UK. We heard descriptions, set out in chapter 2, of how universities had in some cases designed courses to fit in with the profiles of students who sought a year or a semester at a European business school, for example, under the Erasmus scheme. There was universal acknowledgement from students and academics that the scheme was of enormous benefit, enabling participants to grow and develop socially as well as academically, and to broaden their horizons and ambitions.
One witness spoke of the positive experiences that students report and of potential gained when approaching employers. She concluded:
“You look at that and feel it is why we are all fighting to stay in Erasmus, because we want to continue to offer those opportunities to students”.
Universities UK points out that the next Erasmus programme would contribute to priorities to encourage disadvantaged or underrepresented students to gain from study abroad. It estimated that black graduates who had a period of study abroad were 70% less likely to be unemployed than their non-mobile peers and graduates from disadvantaged backgrounds, and earned 6.1% more.
The European Commission’s proposal for the next Erasmus programme suggests a doubling of the budget. Universities UK therefore recommends that the UK should seek full associated country status for the next Erasmus programme, starting in 2021. The noble Lord, Lord Jay, expressed this eloquently. The committee, in its conclusions, states that the UK is, rightly, a popular destination for students, with our high reputation, particularly in science and research. We receive substantial funding from the EU, and it is in our mutual interest to maintain close co-operation and collaboration. Social mobility is, in my view, one of the most important advantages. Will the Minister confirm that the UK should seek full associated country status for the next Erasmus programme? Will he confirm that the positive indications at paragraph 173 of the political declaration on the future UK-EU relationship will be vigorously pursued, for the benefit of young people not only in the UK but in the other countries of Europe?
My Lords, I join other noble Lords in thanking my noble friend Lord Jay of Ewelme and his Select Committee for an excellent report on such a key topic. I will focus on funding for scientific research through the EU programmes, in particular the European Research Council.
I speak as a career research scientist who has worked in universities and institutes in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, the USA and Canada. I know from personal experience how crucial international collaboration in science is. Research is possibly one of the most effective ways of building international shared values and co-operation. This is more important than ever in times when international co-operation is under threat through nationalism, isolationism and barriers. It would therefore be a matter of great regret if we were to withdraw from what is arguably the most mature and effective international scientific programme in the world.
It is very hard to set up an international programme of research co-operation in which national interests are set aside in the pursuit of knowledge and understanding. The European Research Council is a rare, and perhaps unique, instance in which this has happened. Thanks in substantial part to the efforts of the United Kingdom, the ERC was established in 2007 to put national interests aside and focus entirely on scientific excellence. The ERC funds blue-skies research in a way that is increasingly difficult in the United Kingdom research council system because it is becoming more top-down and relevance-focused.
As we have heard, the UK is the leading beneficiary in Europe of ERC grants. My noble friend Lord Jay mentioned last week’s announcement of the latest round of awards under its advanced grants scheme, in which the UK will host 47 grants, compared with 32 in Germany, 31 in France and 23 in the Netherlands. My university, Oxford, will host nine of these advanced grants, including support for cutting-edge research on synthetic tissues for medical application and the safety and robustness of artificial intelligence systems. As the university’s pro-vice-chancellor for research told me last week, the fact that these could be amongst the last awards we are eligible to receive through EU sources is a sobering moment and one which underlines the importance for the UK Government of securing ongoing access to these programmes. Oxford University is the top university in Europe in terms of funding from Horizon 2020, with more than €400 million-worth of grants. Oxford is typical of leading universities in the UK. Five of the top 10 universities in Europe for Horizon funding are in the United Kingdom. We have heard from other noble Lords about the potential loss of funding in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The Royal Society has estimated that the UK could lose out on £1 billion of funding in the first year as a result of a no-deal Brexit and £0.5 billion even taking account of the Government’s offer to supply substitution funding.
Furthermore, as the Royal Society highlights and as other noble Lords have mentioned, loss of funding is not the only risk we face. We will lose access to the best scientists and to networks and regulatory alignment, which are essential if the UK science base is not to suffer severe damage. As my noble friend Lord Jay of Ewelme mentioned, we will lose the prestige of winning grants in competition with 27 other countries. These are really prestigious awards. International networks are important for science, and we are already suffering the consequences of Brexit. As the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Newnham, said, we already losing the ability to attract students and researchers from other countries. The Wellcome Trust, the world’s second-largest biomedical charity, which invests more than £1 billion a year in scientific and medical research, has already seen a 14% drop in applicants from the European Economic Area for its prestigious and well-funded research fellowships. The Wellcome Sanger Institute, outside Cambridge, where the human genome was first sequenced, has seen a 50% drop in applications for PhD places by EU nationals.
Let us be honest: there is simply no up side for UK science from Brexit. No serious scientist I know sees anything other than the loss of networks, funding and the movement of people and, ultimately, the erosion of the United Kingdom’s place as the leading scientific nation in Europe. However, it is just possible that I have missed something; if I have I hope the Minister will enlighten me.
So what is the Government’s position? It has to be said that science does not appear to be top of the Government’s worry list about the consequences of Brexit. As Sir Paul Nurse, Nobel Prize winner, former president of the Royal Society and current director of the Francis Crick Institute put it recently:
“If Brexit happens, then science won’t have the influence and profile it will need to be protected, and we may fall off the end of the agenda”.
He also said:
“The statements that we hear”,
from the Government,
“are relatively reassuring. But the problem is that … it’s difficult to be fully confident and trust what’s being said”.
I very much hope that the Minister will remove some of this uncertainty. I shall end by asking three questions, some of which have already been asked, but there is no harm in repeating them. First, if the UK does not succeed in remaining part of the EU science funding mechanisms, can he assure us unequivocally that the equivalent amount of funding will be made available nationally? Secondly, can he assure us that whatever commitments the Government make will not be just for the short term—as other noble Lords have emphasised, 2020 is not far away—but will match those of the European Union schemes in scale and duration into the future? Thirdly, can he assure us that if the UK were to replace EU schemes with national funding, that funding equivalent to the European Research Council Funding would be for blue-skies research not for the top-down-driven strategic research that is becoming increasingly prevalent in UK RI funding?
My Lords, I declare an interest in that my husband is a research engineer on the science park in Cambridge and my last job before I came into your Lordships’ House was as the director of Association of the Universities in the East of England, where most of my work involved the exploitation of projects, which relates to the point that the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, made about how important it is to have strategic development but you cannot do that without blue-skies research coming first. The key point about the ERC and the MSCA is that that blue-skies funding is disappearing fast around the world and UK universities and research institutes have been relying very heavily on it.
The UK is a world leader in research and innovation. We produce 15.2% of the world’s most cited articles, with only 0.9% of the population, and the UK ranks first among competitors by field-weighted citation impact, which is a real indicator of research quality. That, frankly, is why we are major contributors to the current Horizon 2020 programme and why we have been net beneficiaries in the programme. While other noble Lords have been speaking, I have been crossing out parts of my speech. I think that I am ending up with the highly political part of the report, which is expressed in a beautifully delicate way, and I apologise in advance for being blunter and perhaps less delicate.
The underwrite guarantee offered by the Government sounds fine in principle but, as Vivienne Stern, the director of Universities UK International, tells us at paragraph 72 on page 30 of the report, it is,
“good up to a point”.
“highlighted the issue of the UK becoming ineligible, as a third country, to access the ERC and MSCA, which she said accounted for ‘about 60% of all the funding that the UK wins’ from Horizon 2020”.
The key point here is how easily and how fast things can go wrong. The report makes reference to some of the difficulties that Switzerland faced. I was very aware of that in the run-up to, and during, the referendum. Appearing in public debates reminded me of the Monty Python film in which it was asked, “What have the Romans ever done for us?” I repeatedly cited Horizon 2020. At that point we had put in about £3 billion and, as a nation, had received about £5 billion back. That figure was about to increase and there was a reason for that: the absolute excellence of our blue-skies research, whether in universities, in research institutes or even in a few more private organisations.
Switzerland, too, had a very proud history of research. It wanted to be a full participant but in 2014 it held a referendum on mass immigration. At the time, its own scientists were pretty relaxed about the possible consequences of that, but a narrow majority approved the introduction of quotas and permits even for migrants from within the EU, which ruptured a long-standing agreement with Brussels. Unfortunately, as the Guardian cited at the time, the knock-on effects were swift and drastic. A Belgian, Vandevyver, commented at the time:
“Certainly, few people here thought the outcome would have any major impact on their work. So what happened afterwards came as a big shock to many. The consequences have been quite dramatic. And depending on what happens now”—
this was in 2015—
“they could get worse”.
Switzerland’s status was rapidly revoked. It attempted to negotiate full associated country status but unfortunately it was completely knocked out. For the following two and a half years, the funding was subbed by money from the Government and particularly from the Swiss National Science Foundation. However, that was only ever intended to be temporary. Therefore, what was the solution? The Swiss Government changed the referendum arrangements in the Bill that would have restricted free movement.
I cite that because on page 50 of this excellent report is a summary of some of the key points in the immigration White Paper. It talks about having very time-limited visas for exchange students and making sure that any EU citizens get specific leave to remain if they stay here for a particular period. It also says that, even in the transition period, anyone following anything other than the tier 4 route might find it difficult to get grants.
When I first read that White Paper, the alarm bells for the university sector in particular and for Horizon 2020 and its successor programmes rang loud and clear. We need to understand what will happen if we continue with the hostile environment. Academics from the European Union are already finding difficulties when they apply early for leave to remain—they do not have to do it yet. One such colleague went back home for six months to help look after a relative who was unwell and subsequently died, and when they came back they were told by the Home Office that their service to date had been broken and they had to start the clock all over again. I suspect that Brussels will take a very dim view of arrangements like that.
In rapid conclusion, I have just one other question to add to all the others that have been put to the Minister. What guarantee, in addition to the full underwrite guarantee, will he be able to get from the Home Office about ensuring true free movement for the university and research sectors that will enable the UK to participate fully in Horizon 2020 and its successor programmes? Otherwise, we will be in the same position as Switzerland, going very rapidly into a black hole and having to spend years trying to dig ourselves out of it. The consequence would be that we would cease to be a leading research country in the world.
My Lords, I speak as a member of the EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee, but I do not intend to add further commentary on the contents of this, our latest report. That task has been performed admirably by our excellent chair and by other noble Lords. Instead, I offer a couple of thoughts about the process behind the report.
I am relatively new to the sub-committee and this is its first report during my tenure. Two things have struck me forcefully. The first is what an extraordinary resource this committee represents—like, I have no doubt, your Lordships’ other EU committees, as demonstrated this afternoon in the debate on Brexit: The Customs Challenge. Our sub-committee contains people with extensive experience of European matters, from the very highest levels of the Diplomatic Service, and from membership of the European Parliament and of bodies working with the EU who understand its strengths and weaknesses. For those who do not like to be guided by experts, the committee has wise and experienced members from all the main political parties and from the independent Cross Benches.
Our report is the culmination of an exercise that has brought together the foremost participants in the field to give us high-quality evidence, along with our quizzing of Government Ministers and officials, and the input of our exceptional staff team. This is a thorough, highly civilised and effective mechanism for achieving a unanimous outcome across party divides and between those with considerable specialist knowledge and those with more general wisdom and experience.
My first observation, therefore, is that this country—amid all the chaos and confusion of Brexit—has an incredible resource in the House of Lords EU committees: a means of bringing clarity to complex issues, of achieving both understanding and consensus, and of bringing more light than heat to the debate.
However, my second observation is that this resource is largely ignored: this voice of reason is largely unheard even within Parliament, let alone in the world outside. The report on the Erasmus and Horizon programmes before us tonight is no exception. Despite its clear analysis and really important recommendations, members of the general public are unlikely to see or hear its contents.
How many people know how valuable the Erasmus programmes are for tens of thousands of young people in this country or how important to the UK’s research and innovation is our involvement with the Horizon programmes? How many people know that currently we gain financially from these programmes and are net beneficiaries, getting more out than we put in— £3 billion in, £5 billion out, as the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, said? How many people know that Brexit, with or without a deal, means that, even if we pour in a lot more taxpayers’ money—and the figures are in billions, not millions—we will still lose our influential, key position in the decision-making for these funding programmes?
Despite a sprinkling of media coverage of our report and some modest pieces in academic magazines and journals, it is likely that the committee’s work will go more or less unnoticed. I think this a great shame. The report before us tonight exemplifies the clear, constructive, consensus-based role that this House can play through its EU Committee and sub-committees in guiding the nation on significant aspects of the UK’s relationship with the EU. But it also illustrates how, surrounded by noise and dissent, this rational, evidence-based approach can be ignored. This is a waste of what should be a brilliant gift to the policymakers and practitioners.
As any research council, policy think tank or research-based foundation will testify, producing a fine report is the start, not the end, of a process for achieving change. It requires persistence to get the message out with a clear communications strategy, ongoing participation in conferences, seminars and informal sessions with opinion-formers, targeting of the news media and use of online social networks. Reports do no good gathering dust on library shelves.
At this time of fake news and divisive discourse, I would like to think that the House’s budget for disseminating and publicising the outputs from our committees—such as the excellent report we are debating tonight—might be significantly increased. However, in the meantime, it is an urgent necessity that the Government recognise that the committee’s vital report on the Erasmus and Horizon programmes deserves their most positive consideration.
My Lords, I declare my interests as chancellor of the University of Birmingham, chair of the advisory board of the Cambridge Judge Business School and a Bynum Tudor fellow of Kellogg College, University of Oxford.
As has been mentioned, the Royal Society says basically that no deal is a bad deal for science. One in six academic staff at UK higher education institutions are from elsewhere in the EU. The UK could lose access to over £1 billion per year in EU research funding. The noble Lord, Lord Krebs, said that there was no upside to leaving the EU for science. My friend, Professor Sir Venki Ramakrishnan, president of the Royal Society, said:
“The UK is a global leader in science because top home-grown and international scientists want to work here. We must do everything we can to ensure that the UK maintains its role at the heart of European science, because that is in everyone’s best interests. If science loses, everyone loses”.
UK science punches well above its weight; that is a point I have made many times. We have 1% of the world’s population but produce 15% of the highest-rated scientific papers. Over half of the UK’s research output in 2015 was the result of international collaboration.
I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Jay, and his committee on a truly outstanding and comprehensive report. It shows very clearly the implications for the UK if we leave the EU with respect to the Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+ programmes. These are phenomenal programmes, in which we have played a major part. As noble Lords have heard, we are the second-largest recipient of Horizon 2020 funding and we have received 15.2% of grants distributed so far, totalling €5.7 billion. As well as funding UK research projects, Horizon 2020 supports scientific partnerships with countries throughout Europe. It is phenomenal.
The report explains very clearly how damaging a no-deal scenario would be for these programmes. It also highlights, as other noble Lords have mentioned, that if we are not an associate member, we will lose out on funding from the European Research Council and Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions, which are not open to third-country participation and not covered. The report says:
“The Government’s own statistics show that grants from these programmes account for about 44% of total UK receipts from Horizon 2020”.
Can the Minister reassure us that we will have access to these programmes in the future? The report is concerned not only with Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020, but asks about the future programmes, Erasmus and Horizon Europe, which are starting in 2021—the year after next—and will run until 2027; we do not want to lose out on them.
Another important point made by the report is its stark warning that mobility opportunities for people in vocational education training would stop in their tracks without Erasmus funding. That would disproportionately affect people from disadvantaged backgrounds and those with medical needs or disabilities. This is serious. It also talks about clear benefits over and above grant funding, such as cross-border research, research facilities and joint infrastructure. It makes the point that the Government keep talking about increasing R&D and innovation spending to 2.4% of GDP from the 1.7% we have at the moment. That will take time. Are we going to lose out in the future?
What of the people involved in these 4,700 projects—the 128,000 participants? The Prime Minister said in her Florence speech—we must not forget all these staged speeches—that people will continue to be able to come and live and work in the UK during the implementation period after the UK leaves the EU, and that there will be a registration system, with the Government considering options for the future. What are these options? The Migration Advisory Committee’s useless—quite frankly, hopeless—report put a threshold of £30,000 as a minimum salary. What about all the research assistants, the post-docs, and all the other people who would lose out? Will the Minister tell us what will happen? Will the Government listen to this report?
As the president of UKCISA, the UK Council for International Student Affairs, which represents 450,000 international students in the UK, I can report that 130,000 of them are from the EU, and 20% of our staff at many of universities are from the EU. The National Union of Students is supportive of the UK remaining a member of these programmes and not losing out in the future. International students bring £26 billion into the economy; they create jobs and pay taxes. It is phenomenal, and we do not want to lose out. At the moment, EU students are entitled to home student fees and loans, and to a permanent right to work after finishing their studies. Can the Minister tell us what will happen to the 130,000 students if those three things are not available to them?
We have lagged behind competitors such as the United States, Australia and Germany in the proportion of students who gain overseas experience. Thanks to initiatives such as the Erasmus programme, we have been catching up. Now we are in danger of falling behind again. The impact survey has found time after time that the employability of people who have been on the Erasmus programme nearly doubles. The soft power of Britain has been increased by our being on the Erasmus programme. With inward mobility, students who participate gain a better understanding of and affinity for the UK. These are all priceless benefits.
What about the future? The European Commission wants to double the funding to €30 billion. Will the Minister assure us that we will join the new programme and commit to the extra funding? It will be more inclusive and more open to students from disadvantaged backgrounds. It will extend mobility. Do we want to lose out on this? I do not think we do, and I would like the Minister to assure us that we will continue to benefit from these further enhanced programmes.
The Royal Society continually says that we need to continue with this scheme. EU countries are among the UK’s top 10 strongest scientific collaborators. Some 17% of R&D undertaken by UK SMEs comes from the EU. The pillars of Horizon 2020 and the pillars of the new Horizon Europe are similar. Do we want to lose out on open science, global challenges, industrial competitiveness and open innovation? We will lose out big time if we are not careful. Universities UK backs these schemes.
As the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, mentioned, what about the uncertainty for the 17,000 British students who plan to study in Europe under Erasmus+ from September? A note published by the Government failed to guarantee their participation. Will the Minister assure us that those students will be able to take part? In recent weeks, Spain and Norway advised their students planning to study in the UK to go elsewhere.
No one has brought up the programme for entrepreneurs. There is a European Union funded programme, Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs. Can the Government assure us that this scheme will continue?
I will conclude with a point that the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, touched on—the youth. This is predominantly about the youth. Since the referendum, our birth rate has been 800,000 a year and we have 2.4 million more youngsters who were not allowed to vote three years ago, including two of my children, who have been old enough to vote since October 2016 and 21 March this year. They missed out on voting three years ago. Their future is being taken away from them. They are the ones who would benefit from Erasmus and from Horizon. The noble Lord, Lord Cormack, spoke about Erasmus and how learning knows no boundaries. Mahatma Gandhi said, “Live as if you’re going to die tomorrow and learn as if you’re going to live for ever”.
I go back to Venki Ramakrishnan—Nobel prize winner, president of the Royal Society and fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge—who said:
“Given the … gridlock, I personally feel it would be best to revoke article 50 and I signed the ongoing petition accordingly (in a personal capacity). Politicians need to rise above partisan politics and self-interest and act soon in the best interests of the country. Whatever they decide, it is time the threat of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit is buried permanently”.
Finally, I will touch on what is going on in the other place. It has now gone beyond the will of the people; it is supposedly now respecting the will the manifestos. What about the Prime Minister respecting the will of her manifesto? She backtracked on the dementia tax four days after it was published. Then she ditched so many other manifesto pledges: a free vote on fox hunting, ending free school lunches for children aged five to seven, dropping the triple lock on pensions and ending the ban on new grammar schools. She can continually U-turn and forget about her manifesto, which did not get a majority—the Conservatives did not get a majority last time—yet we cannot ask the people to change their mind even once, when the Prime Minister has gone back three times to get MPs to change their mind and wants to go back a fourth time.
There is only one solution. The world has changed in three years. We have to say what we have been talking about in this debate. We have to preserve the benefits of Erasmus and Horizon. The only way to do that is to put it back to the people for a people’s vote. I am sure we will end up remaining in the European Union, which is the best deal we have by far.
My Lords, I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Jay, for introducing this debate so comprehensively and for his chairmanship of the committee that produced this authoritative and important report, although sadly without the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Cormack.
As the noble Lord, Lord Ricketts, said, this has been a debate with a single message. Perhaps it is not surprising that there has been rare agreement among the speakers today in support of two European programmes that have been so important to our students, universities, citizens and country. We have long been pressing the Minister for assurances that we shall continue to be part of Erasmus and Horizon. His assurances have been modest and time-limited and I rather expect that he will not be able to give us the longer-term assurances that we all wish to see. We can only hope that he can give some plans beyond 2020 and, indeed, answer the questions from the noble Baroness, Lady Warwick.
As Universities UK and the Royal Society have reminded us, the UK is a world leader in research and innovation, and continuing to build our research capacity is vital for future economic growth and closing the UK’s productivity gap, as my noble friends Lady Smith and Lady Brinton can attest from first-hand experience. Indeed, my noble friend Lady Brinton’s tales of Switzerland were salutary.
The UK’s research success is down to homegrown talent, high levels of international co-operation and world-class facilities. In science and research, the UK produces 15.2% of the world’s most cited articles with only 0.9% of the world’s population, and ranks first among competitors by field-weighted citation impact, which is an indicator of research quality. The noble Lord, Lord Krebs, spoke about the importance of this scientific research and the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, added his voice on this.
Much of this is due to funding and collaboration through the Horizon programme. What steps are the Government taking to secure “associated status” with Horizon Europe? We have heard that the UK will not be able to start negotiations to gain associated status until the UK has left the EU, but surely it is important that the UK influences the shape of this programme as a current member of the EU.
The noble Lord, Lord Best, bemoans the lack of attention to this report and of realisation more widely of the huge benefits we have had from these two great programmes. The range of universities that contributed to the report bears witness of the importance throughout higher education of these programmes. It is surely in all our interests for collaboration to continue.
When we think of Erasmus, there is copious evidence of transformational experiences of young people who spend time in other countries, developing linguistic skills but also gaining an understanding of cultural, political, economic and social differences, and learning to respect international differences. Like my noble friend Lady Janke, I am a former modern language teacher. I know the enormous benefits of time spent in countries by language students, but for other students as well. Of course, the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, is a tireless supporter of modern languages and time spent abroad.
I have to say that this is all a far cry from my days reading languages at Oxford, where women were discouraged from spending time abroad because it would take away for their academic studies. At the time, I was still fluent in French, having spent a childhood in France. This was totally irrelevant to my degree: what really mattered were the medieval texts. But there we are; we have moved on.
The people on Erasmus developed soft skills as well as skills and knowledge to enhance international relations—and, goodness, do we need those skills now. The country will certainly feel the loss if our younger generation loses out on opportunities to study, work and live in other countries.
We hear from the report that, under Erasmus+, €1 billion is expected to be allocated to the UK between 2014 and 2020 to support university student exchanges, work and vocational training placements, youth projects—we have heard mention of their importance—and opportunities for staff working at all levels of education to teach or train abroad. Extra funding is available for people from disadvantaged backgrounds, and those with disabilities or additional needs, to ensure that these mobility opportunities are inclusive and accessible. That has come out from all sides of the Chamber. This is all invaluable, but will it still be available? The next Erasmus programme will align well with UK priorities, including measures that will make it easier for disadvantaged students to take part and be more flexible, as the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, reminded us. The European Commission’s proposal for the next programme suggests a doubling of the overall budget. The UK should therefore seek as close a status as possible for the next Erasmus programme, which starts in 2021.
Erasmus has done wonders for those from disadvantaged backgrounds, and has enhanced vocational as well as academic learning. Does the Minister have any plans for what programmes the Government might introduce if we lose Erasmus? As the report says,
“the UK is a respected and important partner in both the Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020 programmes. It is a popular destination for mobility placements and a world leader in research, with an exceptionally strong science base … In return, the UK receives substantial amounts of funding, access to professional networks and opportunities to connect and collaborate with European partners built over decades of cooperation under the shared framework of the Erasmus and Horizon programmes”.
We have heard this mentioned in the debate as well. Funding is a crucial part, of course, but the co-operation is also critical to the research excellence of our universities.
The UK has so far received €5.7 billion of funding from Horizon 2020. What plans have the Government made to replicate this in the event that we leave without a replacement arrangement? The funding is for fellowships, joint research projects and collaboration between universities, colleges and schools, and has a significant impact on youth projects and policy in Europe and beyond. These are worldwide collaborations which surely, in these fractious times, we should be supporting as much as possible. The Government have committed to underwrite funding from EU programmes until the end of 2020, but what then?
There is a lack of clarity over how this will operate, particularly given that the European Research Council and the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions are not open to third-country participation. The UK could hope to participate as a third country in the successor programmes to Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020, Erasmus and Horizon Europe, which will run from 2021 to 2027. What plans do the Government have to ensure that we are in the best position for this? Let us not forget the vocational support for Erasmus, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria. We should certainly be concerned that, as the report sets out,
“mobility opportunities for people in vocational education and training would ‘stop in their tracks’ without Erasmus funding”.
This is particularly damaging for those from disadvantaged backgrounds and those with disabilities. Can the Minister give us any reassurances about the vocational education programmes?
The great Erasmus programme has been around since 1987. It has expanded from universities to lifelong learning, adult education, youth and sport programmes, youth workers, education staff and teachers, who have all had employment opportunities enhanced. Hundreds of thousands of people, young and old, have had their lives transformed. Yet, there is total uncertainly about the way forward. We understand that the Minister’s hands will be tied, but we would welcome any assurances he can give that the Government appreciate just how valuable these programmes are, and what a huge loss it will be to the country if we can no longer play a full part in them. I look forward to his reply.
My Lords, it is a great pleasure to speak in this debate, on a subject which may well come to define the future hopes and aspirations of our next generation of students, researchers, entrepreneurs and business leaders. The noble Lord, Lord Jay, is to be congratulated, on the report that has been produced and on the excellence and the quality of this evening’s debate, which it has so ably supported.
These two programmes, Erasmus and Horizon 2020, have their origins in the mid-1980s, at a time when the European Parliament and the Commission were looking expansively at ways in which Europe’s emerging “knowledge economy” recognised the need to be more ambitious. The UK’s part in these programmes has long been regarded as critical to their success, largely because we punch way above our weight. As the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, said earlier, we have just 1% of the world population but gather 15.2% of the world’s most highly cited articles. We are ranked first among competitors by field-weighted citation impact.
UK universities tell us that Horizon 2020 is the largest multilateral international funding pot in the world, with a budget of €75 billion over a seven-year period. Since the programme’s inception, the UK has been the second most successful country in terms of funding received. The programme provides a tailor-made platform for collaboration with key partners in Europe; over 50% of UK collaborations are with members of the EU. The Horizon 2020 budget is set to grow to €100 billion in the period 2021-27. At our current level of success in securing funding, UK universities could expect to benefit to the tune of between €14 billion and €18 billion over that period.
Whatever the outcome of Commons votes tonight and later in the week, and the shape of any withdrawal deal, it is essential, as the EU Committee’s report says, that the UK Government secure continued access to the EU research framework programmes through association with Horizon Europe. Our universities need this guarantee to ensure their pre-eminence as research institutions leading and participating in collaborative programmes. A failure to secure this beyond the current spending period will, as many speakers have said tonight, damage permanently our university sector and the businesses that depend upon it.
The Government’s commitment to increase research funding to 2.4% of GDP by 2027 is of course welcome, but it merely underlines the centrality of research to the UK’s future prosperity. Does it go far enough? This I doubt. The weakness in the strategy is that access to Horizon Europe is dependent on a guarantee that post-2020 funding will be commensurate with the UK’s ambition. Again, a failure to be ambitious will mean that we cease to be a net beneficiary from future Horizon Europe budgets. My fear is that, because being an associate member will not give the UK more than observer status at programme committees, the temptation for this Government and perhaps future Administrations will be to restrain funding and minimise costs. If the UK participates as a non-associated member, it will lose access to major funding opportunities and have no influence over the direction of research programmes and priorities.
We echo the calls for the Government to secure at least associated status in the event of the UK leaving the EU, so that negotiations can begin about our participation and on shaping some of the future research agenda. The underwrite guarantee helps to ensure cross-university collaborative work in the short term, but what happens beyond Horizon 2020? Perhaps the Minister can help us with some assurances. Can he also provide a cast- iron assurance that funding commensurate with the expected returns from the ERC and Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions, estimated to be worth €1.3 billion over the final 20 months of the Horizon programme, will be available?
My noble friend Lady Warwick and the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, expressed concern about the uncertainty that researchers might suffer from and that they might be encouraged to move as a consequence to other EU institutions. It is equally possible that, if we have no deal, negotiations might stall. It might be helpful if the Government therefore gave assurances to those researchers that UK Research and Innovation will sign grant agreements in such a situation. If as a product of Brexit we in the UK lose access to funding opportunities, it is clear that we will need replacement programmes. The Government must work with the research communities to ensure that, in the event of crashing out or failing to negotiate a workable deal with the EU, we have a well-funded alternative. It needs to be understood by government that it will take many years to replicate the scope of current programmes and undo the damage done to our reputation and field-leading position internationally.
Turning to the Erasmus+ programmes, many similar challenges exist here. Currently, the budget of €16.4 billion for the programme period reaches over 4 million people through study, training, work experience, sports and volunteering abroad. Over the past 30 years, some 300,000 UK students have benefited from the Erasmus programmes. Of course, UK university students have always studied abroad. Like other noble Lords, I recall a few friends having years abroad during my time at Sussex in the early 1970s, but the programmes had to be individually negotiated and were reliant on the good will of the two institutions involved and an element of good fortune. Today’s programmes are sophisticated, and a far cry from those back then, which predated our membership of the EU.
In the academic year 2015-16, 15,000-plus students from UK universities took part. Incoming students add to the broader cultural experience of students attending our university courses. The NUS estimates that on and off-campus spending by international students, the vast majority from the EU, totalled some £25 billion in 2014-15 alone and contributed £13.8 billion to the UK’s GDP. This supports the equivalent of over 200,000 jobs and equates to £10.8 billion of export earnings. To put it in tax revenue terms, it supplies £l billion a year to the Treasury and supports the salaries that pay for 31,000 nurses or 25,000 police officers.
But the major benefit is probably to less measurable things. Students bring overseas thinking and ideas home with them. They add to the UK’s influence through forms of soft power. Students and researchers bring fresh approaches to our academic institutions and towns and cities. Some research suggests that students who study abroad access better employment opportunities, achieve higher incomes and make a bigger contribution to the national economy.
Unsurprisingly, overseas study benefits social mobility and, as many noble Lords have said, students from disadvantaged backgrounds. One study suggests that black and minority ethnic students who participate in Erasmus are 41% less likely to be unemployed than non-exchange students, and that mobile students from poorer backgrounds earn 6% more across their lifetimes. Shutting off the opportunity for international exchange for those students will undermine work to widen participation in higher education and improve upward mobility.
Given all the benefits to our university sector and to the wider economy from Erasmus, it is essential that, in any post-Brexit deal with the EU, the UK Government negotiate full association with the 2021-27 programme. Costs will be higher and we will not have the purchase on the content of the programme we currently do, as voting members of programme committees, but as a non-associated country we would give up a seat at the table completely. If it is not possible to negotiate a sensible post-Brexit arrangement, it is essential that the UK Government establish a new international mobility scheme, with all the same features of our current arrangements. I agree with the report that this must not be at the expense of exchanges on our doorstep, not least because they are attractive to vocational students, those with special needs and those with strong family ties.
I echo much of what the noble Lord, Lord Jay, said in his opening speech, because we have only seen government commitments for funding of the existing programmes. Can the Minister assure the House that the Government have a plan for the long term in mind and the replication of the UK’s participation in Erasmus on current terms?
Finally, it would be remiss of me not to mention the position of students seeking to study in the UK. Can we be assured that there is no threat to the status of students currently studying here? Can we be further assured that internal discussions are taking place within government and especially the Home Office to guarantee the extension of the temporary leave to remain scheme? Without that, the future of mobility learning will be jeopardised, and our place as a centre of excellence for the student experience placed at risk.
No deal is a form of intellectual and academic self-harm. I share the fear of many Peers tonight: I cannot believe a Government serious in looking to the future of our country will allow this to take place, and I hope I am right. The Government have offered little by way of reassurance so far, though there are some encouraging signs in the political statement that sits with the withdrawal agreement. Tonight, as we await the outcome of Commons votes, and at a point when we all need more answers to hard questions, I hope that the Government offer us more than the empty promises we have sadly become used to over the last couple of years, which are a feature of Mrs May’s administration. These questions need answers.
My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Jay of Ewelme, for securing this debate and I thank the Home Affairs Sub-Committee, of which he is chair, for taking the time to consider the future of the Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020 programmes after Brexit. This has been valuable work which I know is informing the Government’s thinking on these topics. I want to make a few opening remarks because there have been, in my view, some excellent speeches this afternoon from many distinguished Peers with backgrounds ranging from education and higher education to the Diplomatic Service. My message, as I start out, is that these two programmes are very important: I agree with so many of the comments made on this point and shall say more about it later. I reassure the noble Lord, Lord Best, and the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, among others, that the sub-committee’s report will not go unnoticed.
Next, I welcome the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, to the Front Bench. I note that he has morphed from shadow Chief Whip to this position and I have no idea whether it is permanent or temporary. I hope it is permanent and he is very welcome. This debate, as is probably the case for all debates here in the Lords, has seen an enormous number of questions raised on these important subjects. Many of the questions directed to me include a focus on the dates and the guarantees we have given, and perhaps suggestions that we should extend these guarantees. The noble Baroness, Lady Garden, anticipated that I might say this, but I hope that the House will not expect me to give any guarantees this afternoon. However, one thing is certain: I will take all views back to the department. I hope, at least, that I can give some assurances that will help the House this afternoon.
The Government will publish a formal response to the Committee’s report shortly. However, to follow a point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Newnham, I will set out the work the Government are doing to ensure that opportunities for our researchers, businesses and students are protected and enriched in all scenarios. I start by saying—with a touch of understatement, perhaps—that we do not know what the coming days will bring, but the UK remains open for business and, importantly, open to ideas and exchanges with the EU and globally, and to the people who provide them. In the context of the UK’s impending departure from the EU, it is imperative that we consider how the UK can maintain close ties with our European partners, particularly in education, science and research.
As the report noted, the Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020 programmes have provided so many people in the UK with the opportunity to move across the EU: to learn, work and carry out research and innovation. UK businesses and researchers have driven forward a wide range of inspiring Horizon 2020 projects. As of the end of September 2018, the UK had more than 10,000 participations in the programme. In response to a question raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Newnham, and the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, who raised an interesting point about EU scientists leaving the UK and the fact that science is losing out, I have absolutely taken note of what both Peers said. We currently expect that, at the point of exiting the EU, the UK will have more than 10,000 live participations in Horizon 2020. I have to inject a little caution because the latest data, released in September 2018, does not suggest that the UK is routinely locked out of consortia, but I recognise that both the noble Baroness and the noble Lord are making points about what they say is happening on the ground. These projects range from increasing our understanding of how green roofs are used to tackle climate change, to helping authorities better protect trafficked persons.
The Government recognise the important role that both schemes have played in the UK and remain committed to supporting collaboration with our neighbours in the EU and beyond. I will focus on Erasmus+ first. The noble Lords, Lord Jay and Lord Bassam, would put this more eloquently than me, but the Erasmus+ programme offers young people the opportunity not only to gain international experience but to boost their employability, as the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, said. It provides opportunities for teaching and training, and supports innovation and the sharing of best practice.
The noble Baroness, Lady Janke, asked me to clarify the terms of payment for the underwrite guarantee. The UKRI will use existing payment systems to ensure continuity for UK beneficiaries. In a no-deal scenario, the UKRI will contact UK beneficiaries who have registered on the portal with further information on how the guarantee will operate in practice. While the UK benefits from sending our own young people on outgoing mobilities, the UK hosts around twice as many incoming Erasmus+ mobilities as it sends out. As the noble Lord, Lord Best, and others have said, it is interesting to note that the UK’s notional contribution to the Erasmus+ budget currently exceeds its share of receipts.
The noble Baroness, Lady Garden, and, particularly, the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, raised the question of modern foreign languages—the importance of Erasmus+ for languages and the supply chain for teachers. I agree with them that the benefits for those who endeavour to learn new languages and study abroad can be huge. Languages provide an insight into other cultures and can open the door to travel and employment opportunities. They can also broaden pupils’ horizons, helping them flourish in new environments.
I assure the House that Erasmus+ is not the only way students can travel abroad. Our world-leading higher education providers have a strong track record of partnering with overseas institutions, and UUK evidence suggests that around half of mobilities already take place outside Erasmus+. The Government know that employers value languages too, as they are increasingly important to make sure we can compete in the global marketplace. I hope the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, might agree that it is clear that other EU countries strongly value and are benefiting from the UK’s participation in Erasmus+.
I will now move on to Horizon 2020. As others have said, this is the biggest EU research and innovation programme ever, with nearly €80 billion of funding available over seven years—that is, between 2014 and 2020. It promises more breakthroughs, discoveries and world-firsts by supporting great ideas at all stages from the lab to the market. The UK is one of the most attractive collaborators for research and innovation, and a key player in Horizon 2020. I have already mentioned our high number of participations, which is second only to Germany. We are also a partner of choice across Europe; every member state places the UK as one of the top five countries they collaborate with under the programme.
I will now touch on the impact of Brexit on these two important programmes, an issue which so many Peers have raised this afternoon. As the committee’s report notes, and as the noble Lord, Lord Jay, has said, passing the withdrawal agreement would ensure that UK participation in Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020 would remain largely unchanged until the end of 2020. Despite the challenges that we continue to face, it remains the Government’s priority to secure a negotiated deal. The noble Lord, Lord Ricketts, asked what Her Majesty’s Government would do to allay the funding gap for the Horizon programme even within the terms of the withdrawal agreement. The EU programme for research and innovation is a competitive bid programme —only the most excellent bids are funded. Under the terms of the withdrawal agreement, UK bids would continue to be measured against the same criteria as bids from other EU member states, which should avoid any fall in funding.
However, the Government are preparing for every eventuality, and in the event of no deal the Government will underwrite funding for successful bids submitted to Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020 before the end of 2020. For the avoidance of doubt, this guarantee would apply for the lifetime of projects. This sizeable funding pledge will be not part of, but additional to, funding already committed in existing departmental budgets. The noble Lord, Lord Jay, asked whether the Government can confirm that they will spend the money required in the EU’s regulation for a no-deal guarantee. I reassure him that the Government have been clear that, if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the UK has obligations to the EU—and the EU obligations to the UK—that will survive Brexit. These would need to be negotiated.
As your Lordships will know, UK Research and Innovation is the Government’s delivery partner for Horizon 2020. Since last year, BEIS and UKRI have worked tirelessly to put the necessary systems in place to deliver this guarantee if required. In this scenario, all beneficiaries registered on the UKRI portal will receive detailed information about the next steps they need to take.
The noble Baroness, Lady Warwick, asked a number of questions—I think there were four, if not more—and I will try to answer them all. She asked about the terms of the underwrite guarantee funding. It will be paid to UK beneficiaries in pounds sterling. UKRI has confirmed that existing systems will be used to give continuity for UK grant holders.
The report also makes clear the importance of confirming no-deal domestic funding streams for key sources of UK Horizon 2020 funding, including the European Research Council. The Government have worked closely with UKRI and a wide range of stakeholders on no-deal planning for the Horizon 2020 programme. However, it is appropriate that noble Lords are asking about this, and I can assure them that further updates will be provided to the research community in due course. In January, the Government published a technical notice on Erasmus+ which provided guidance to organisations and participants on the UK’s anticipated participation in the current Erasmus+ programme in the event of no deal.
The report has pointed towards the benefits of continuing to contribute towards Erasmus+, and it is right to look ahead. Indeed, the UK is very interested in exploring future participation in the Erasmus+ successor scheme for the period 2021 to 2027. I understand that the successor scheme will include increased school exchange opportunities and a greater emphasis on widening participation. The Government have welcomed proposals on this and will continue to participate in discussions while we remain in the EU.
The noble Baronesses, Lady Smith of Newnham and Lady Garden, asked whether the Government would commit to seeking alternatives to Erasmus+ and associate third-country status for Erasmus+. Perhaps in line with what I have just said, the Government are certainly very interested in the emerging proposals for the successor Erasmus+ programme for that 2020 to 2027 period. The details of that are still being discussed by the EU, and the UK will continue to participate in discussions while we remain in the EU. However, we note that the proposals so far contain a number of provisions that the UK can welcome. We will continue to consider the emerging proposals carefully, and whether the UK will participate in the future programme, and on what basis, will be subject to wider negotiations on the UK’s future relationship with the EU.
The report also highlighted the importance of an alternative scheme if participation in Erasmus+ cannot be negotiated. I can assure the House that the Government understand the value that international mobility can bring and are currently driving forward work on domestic alternative options to support it. Again, to reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, the potential benefit of the UK establishing its own international mobility scheme is the ability to tailor the scheme to UK needs and target the funding where it is most needed. Of course, whatever international mobility scheme we are part of in the future, the Government will want to ensure value for money for the taxpayer.
The noble Baroness, Lady Warwick, previously asked me a question—it may have been in an Oral Question the other day—on the funding of domestic alternatives for Erasmus+. I reassure the House that the Government are preparing for every foreseeable scenario. In a no-deal scenario, the Government’s underwrite guarantee will cover the payment of awards to UK beneficiaries for all Erasmus+ bids; that is additional funding, which I may have alluded to earlier.
As regards domestic alternatives, the Government are developing a range of options. But of course they need to balance carefully the support for international mobility and ensuring value for money, which I said earlier.
As the House will know, Horizon Europe is the successor to Horizon 2020, and I will touch upon some of the thoughts set out in the report. Recognising the value brought through international collaboration, the Prime Minister made it clear in her speech at Jodrell Bank last year that the UK would like the option to fully associate to the excellence-based EU science, research and innovation programmes post 2020, including Horizon Europe.
UK officials and Ministers continue to play an active role in the development of the Horizon Europe programme, to ensure that it remains in line with the UK’s priorities of excellence, openness to the world and added value. As a potential future associate to the programme, we believe that Horizon Europe should continue to treat associated countries as partners rather than competitors. The benefits that associated countries bring to the programme must be recognised and welcomed.
The noble Baroness, Lady Janke, asked what progress had been made in setting the terms of third-country participation. She may not be surprised when I tell her that negotiations on the Horizon Europe programme, including provisions on third-country participation, are ongoing within the EU institutions. At the moment, it is too early to make an informed decision about our future participation, but we are committed to continuing the strong, positive relationship that we currently have with the EU in science, research and innovation.
My noble friend Lord Cormack asked how the UK will influence research and innovation without a seat at the table, which is a fair question. I reassure him that the UK is a great place to do science. We account for 4.1% of the world’s researchers, 10.7% of all citations, 15.2% of the world’s most cited articles and three of the world’s top 10 universities. We know that collaboration between researchers is key to achieving great science. That is why our plan to ensure that the UK remains a world leader in science and innovation after Brexit focuses on encouraging close relationships with the EU and beyond.
Let me be clear: science, research and innovation really matter. That is why we have committed to considering all options to support UK research and further the Government’s strategic objectives, regardless of whether we choose to associate to Horizon Europe. This is in line with the committee’s recommendation that every effort be made in this respect. That is why the Government have announced the appointment of Professor Sir Adrian Smith, director and chief executive of the Alan Turing Institute, as an independent adviser to the Government on the development of future funding programmes for international collaboration. The terms of reference have been agreed and Sir Adrian has hit the ground running. We look forward to his thoughts and recommendations.
To answer a question from the noble Lord, Lord Jay, about the implications of the Smith review for association to Horizon Europe, Professor Smith’s advice will help set the direction for the implementation of the Government’s ambition to ensure that the UK continues to be a global leader. In the event that the UK does not associate to Horizon Europe, the Government will support measures to enable world-class collaborative research that aligns to UK priorities.
I can also confirm that BEIS is working closely with the national academies and UKRI to develop ambitious and credible alternatives to association to Horizon Europe which could also enable world-class collaborative research. Your Lordships will appreciate that this thinking is still at an early stage and is currently being tested with both devolved Administrations and key stakeholders from the wider research and innovation communities represented by Minister Skidmore’s high-level stakeholder group on EU exit. Your Lordships should be aware that all decisions on future funding for international science collaboration remain subject to the spending review—so are caveated to some extent.
The noble Baroness, Lady Warwick, asked me to confirm the fee status for EU students beginning courses in 2020. This point has been raised in the House on several occasions. I know that students, staff and providers are concerned about what EU exit means for study and collaboration opportunities. To help give certainty, in July 2018, we announced guarantees on student finance for EU nationals. Those guarantees are not altered if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.
For courses starting in 2020, we understand how important it is that students and institutions have information available for student support before applications for courses are open. Applications for courses starting in the academic year 2020-21 do not open until September 2019. I am sure that the noble Baroness will say that that deadline is coming up quite shortly. The Government are aware of that and will ensure that students and institutions have the information they need well in advance of that date.
The noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Newnham, asked about teaching and stated that fewer students in the UK were starting teacher training, which is an interesting point. In September 2018, we announced a renewed package of generous financial incentives for international teacher training, including tax-free scholarships worth £28,000 and tax-free bursaries worth £26,000 for trainees in modern foreign languages.
The noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, asks what guarantee I can give from the Home Office that there will be free movement for students. The immigration White Paper published in December, which she will know about, sets out the Government’s position on this issue and on a future single immigration system for the UK. The White Paper proposals on post study went further than the MAC recommendations for students, extending post-study work to six months for undergraduate students attending institutions with degree-awarding powers, six months for all master’s students and 12 months for PhD students. There is no limit on the number of students who can come to study in the UK, nor is there any intention to impose one.
Perhaps I, too, might press a point which I raised. I appreciate entirely the helpful comments that the Minister has made about the actions that we will take in the event of a deal, which I shall read carefully. I raised a question about the amounts that would be saved in the event of no deal because we would not be spending them on these two programmes and the reassurance it would give if that money was guaranteed to be reapplied to whatever schemes the Government chose to invest in subsequently.
The noble Baroness would not expect me to be able to give any particular reassurances, but my understanding is that the money would return to the Treasury. Then the question is what the Treasury would do. If I am wrong on that, I shall write, but I think that I should write in any case to provide clarification. That is the normal process.
I thank the Minister and am sorry to interrupt at this late hour. One of the questions that I ended with was about European Research Council grants being for blue-skies research. Can the Minister comment on the thinking, perhaps in Professor Sir Adrian Smith’s report, about what we would do nationally if we were not part of the ERC and whether it would be clear that any new scheme would be for blue-skies research rather than strategic or applied research?
I am extremely sorry and thank the Minister for giving way. I asked quite a few pointed questions and he has not answered any of them. I would be grateful if he could write to me, copy in all Members who have participated and put a copy in the Library of the House.
I said at the beginning that I was not sure that I could answer every single question. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, has taken part in many debates that I have responded to. I apologise to him; my intention is always to answer every question. I know that he feels passionately about the position that he takes, but, given the time, I will certainly write to him.
I hope that I have demonstrated to your Lordships today the work that the Government are doing to ensure that the UK maintains its position as a world leader in education, research and innovation and as a nation that remains open to international mobility. As noble Lords will have noted, on Thursday the Commission announced results of the 2018 ERC advanced grant call. This is great news, as senior researchers based in the UK secured 47 of the 222 grants awarded, reaffirming that the UK research and innovation community maintains its world-leading status despite all the uncertainties. I am pleased to confirm that these grants will be funded through the underwrite guarantees should we leave the EU without a deal. That will ensure that this ground-breaking research can go ahead.
I thank again the noble Lord, Lord Jay, and all noble Lords for taking part in this debate and for some incisive and thoughtful comments.
My Lords, I am grateful to all those who have taken part in the debate and I am also grateful for the Minister’s thoughtful reply. The debate has shown that there continues to be real concern both inside and outside the House about the potential cost of Brexit to many of our young people and to our universities. There is a real need for the Government to do all they can to mitigate the adverse effects of that. As my noble friend Lord Krebs said, there really is no upside to this. However, I am sure that the Minister will take that message back to his colleagues, and I much look forward to the government response to our report. I beg to move.
House adjourned at 9.05 pm.