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Volume 628: debated on Thursday 7 September 2017

10. What discussions his Department has had with universities on their priorities for the negotiations on the UK leaving the EU. (900650)

17. What discussions his Department has had with universities on their priorities for the negotiations on the UK leaving the EU. (900658)

As we leave the European Union, the Government are committed to ensuring that Britain remains a global hub for education, science and research. I am delighted to see this week that the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge have been ranked as the top two universities in the world. To maintain our success, the Government are listening carefully to the sector’s views. This week, we published our discussion paper on science and innovation. As the UK leaves the EU, one of our core objectives is to continue to collaborate with European partners on major science, research and technology initiatives, and the paper explores how the UK and the EU can achieve that objective together.

This country has three of the world’s top universities, as well as a vibrant life sciences sector, as indicated by the life sciences industrial strategy. The sector needs global talent and reassurance, but I know from talking to people at the University of Suffolk and the University of Cambridge that some have sought not to give academics and students that reassurance. What reassurance can the Minister give me that the scaremongering is untrue and what assurances can he give to our university sector?

My hon. Friend is rightly a champion for the excellent universities in her area. As the Prime Minister has made clear in the EU exit White Papers, one of our greatest strengths as a nation is the breadth and depth of our academic and scientific communities. Britain remains the second most popular destination in the world for academic study. We have already offered assurances to EU students starting a course in the 2018-19 academic year or before, and they will continue to be eligible for home fee status tuition fee loans and applicable maintenance support. I share my hon. Friend’s ambition for our university sector to act as a magnet for talent from around the world.

The University of Gloucestershire in my constituency admits students from across the world, including the EU, benefiting the local economy and community. What steps are being taken to amplify and underscore the message that the UK continues to warmly welcome overseas students to study here, in Cheltenham and beyond?

I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I have just given. He is absolutely right, and I would add that the Home Secretary has asked the Migration Advisory Committee to examine student migration and to report back next year. As she made clear in her commissioning letter, and has been echoed in our own science paper, international students enhance our universities, both financially and culturally, and often become important ambassadors for the United Kingdom in later life, so we will continue to welcome them long into the future.

The Prime Minister boasted yesterday about the number of Nobel prize winners that this country had had, but the truth is that many of them were migrants who started their lives elsewhere in the world and came to this country to study in our universities. Should we not be proclaiming that fact as part of our proud inheritance?

Will the Minister please reassure the University of Bristol and the University of the West of England that he values their collaboration with their EU counterparts and that he will prioritise doing everything he can to ensure that that collaboration continues?

I refer the hon. Lady to the paper we published this week, which sets that out clearly. We see a huge advantage both to the UK and the EU in continuing that collaboration, and we look forward to discussing it as we move towards talks on the future partnership.