You will of course be aware that the Prime Minister has written today to Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty. This marks the formal start of the two-year negotiation for the terms of Britain’s exit from the European Union. Mr Tusk has said that EU leaders will respond to the UK government's letter within 48 hours and the Council’s formal position on the negotiations will be agreed at an extraordinary meeting on 29 April 2017.
As the process unfolds we will understand more about the priorities set by both sides and be able to interpret what this all mean for ourselves as individuals and for what we do as a University. There will inevitably a great deal of speculation and comment so at this point in the process it particularly important to stress that the UK will remain a member of the EU for the next two years – and that there will be no immediate change for universities.
As I outlined in my message to you all last week, we already know that the triggering of Article 50 and the uncertainty around the outcome of the negotiation process will heighten the concerns of many university staff and students (particularly those from other EU countries) both for yourselves and for families, friends and work colleagues.
Together with colleagues in UUK and elsewhere we are working to ensure that the interests of the UK’s world-leading Higher Education sector, and those staff and students who make it such a success, are taken into account.
UUK’s priorities are set out in a briefing paper – approved by the UUK Board in January 2017 – titled ‘What should be the Government’s priorities for exit negotiations and policy development to maximise the contribution of British universities to a successful and global UK?’ The document has been shared with a range of government departments, advisers, journalists, MPs and Peers. UUK has also undertaken a programme of meetings to engage with a broad range of political stakeholders to garner support for these priorities.
The two most immediate priorities that UUK are urging Government to take action to address are: - Confirmation of rights to reside and work in the UK post-exit for EU nationals that are currently working in the university sector and their dependents - Confirmation that EU students starting a course in 2018/19 and 2019/20 will continue to be eligible for home fee status, and be eligible for loans and grants.
You will note that in her letter the Prime Minister expresses the aim of seeking an early agreement on the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and UK citizens living elsewhere in the European Union.
Though it does remain difficult to answer many of your other questions with any clarity at this point, you might find it helpful to take a look at the material on UUK’s website.
This addresses many of the main questions being asked, such as: - Will UK universities still be able to employ staff from other EU countries? - Will EU students still be able to study at UK universities? - Will EU students continue to be eligible to receive loans and grants? - What about students participating in the Erasmus+ exchange programme? - Will the UK continue to have access to EU funding for research and innovation such as Horizon 2020 and European Structural and Investment Funds?
As the negotiations proceed we will seek to keep you informed of how the University of Bath is adapting to meet our future challenges and also opportunities.
To repeat what I said last week, the diversity of our workforce, and our reliance on the talents of people from around the globe, is one of the defining elements of studying and working at our University.