Higher education underfunding 'must be tackled to reap benefits of Brexit'
The higher education system will lose out on opportunities presented by Brexit unless underfunding is tackled, a new report warns.
Ireland will be the only English-speaking country in the EU after Brexit, apart from tiny Malta, putting it in a unique position to attract students and researchers, who might otherwise study or work in the UK.
Higher education is one of the few areas that can benefit from the UK's departure from the EU, but it won't be able to take advantage unless the funding issue is addressed, according to the British Irish Chamber of Commerce.
The consequences of Brexit are so serious that the chamber set up a higher education and research committee to represent the interests of businesses, researchers, entrepreneurs and university leaders.
Its policy paper, published today, was developed to inform the Government in both its forthcoming budget and in Brexit negotiations themselves.
The paper seeks to ensure that Ireland maximises any opportunities while, at the same time, historic links between the two countries are strengthened.
It acknowledges that, regardless of the outcome of the Brexit negotiations, the UK will remain one of the best locations in the world for higher education and research and that Ireland benefits from that through partnerships.
The committee, chaired by Professor Daire Keogh, vice-president of Dublin City University, makes a series of recommendations - including that higher education and research must be central to the Government's Brexit strategy.
It wants to see concrete evidence of Government support in the forthcoming budget and in the review of the Government's capital investment plan,
A mid-term review of the capital plan was published yesterday, and an additional €4.1bn is being allocated for infrastructural projects between 2018-2021.
On funding, the report warns that concerns over current trends in Ireland have been expressed to the chamber on both sides of the Irish Sea.
It warns that "consistent underfunding" will jeopardise the potential benefits of Brexit, and says the Government "cannot afford to ignore the recommendations of the Cassells report, which called for an extra €600m a year for the sector.
Other key recommendations include a commitment that regardless of the Brexit outcome, the Government will not impose non-EU fees on UK citizens; should the UK exit the European research area, a special status for the 'education area' of the island of Ireland should be considered; the establishment of a UK-Ireland research fund and a north-south research centre.