Vice-Chancellor’s statement on the triggering of Article 50

Wednesday 29 March 2017

With Article 50 now formally triggered, we are at the start of a process which will see the UK exiting the European Union.

As Vice-Chancellor of the University of Exeter, I stand with other Russell Group universities who have, in an open letter, called for urgent assurances from ministers over the rights of citizens from EU member states living in the UK, as well as reiterating the commitment of Russell Group universities to maintain research ties with partners across Europe.

It is now vital, as these negotiations commence, that we gain clarity about the future so we can continue to welcome colleagues and students from across Europe, and the globe, to work and study at our University.

It is important to note that, until Article 50 negotiations are concluded, the UK will remain a member of the EU and the rights of EU/EEA nationals living in the UK will remain unchanged. I understand that we are now in a period of some uncertainty about the details of our negotiated exit from the EU but I can assure you that the University has put in place a programme of support for colleagues from EU/EEA countries. Further information about the support available can be found online.

I give my personal commitment to EU/EEA colleagues and students that Exeter will continue to be a University that has a thriving, diverse and global community - I will continue to use all the opportunities open to me to lobby the Government to provide a greater level of certainty to you as soon as possible.

From Professor Sir Steve Smith, Vice-Chancellor, University of Exeter

The text of the open letter from the Russell Group can be found below:

Russell Group universities are international institutions with a global reputation for the quality of our teaching, research and collaborative relationships. Leaving the EU will not change this.

Universities have a key role to play in building a stronger UK economy in years to come. Our members will always remain open to new ideas and talent from across the world.

We recognise the triggering of Article 50 will cause further concern for staff and students from other member states who are living and working in the UK.

Our message today to European citizens based at our institutions is clear and unambiguous. Students, lecturers, researchers and professional services staff from across Europe have helped make our higher education sector a world leader. We value your contribution to our universities and the UK. We want you and your families to stay after the UK leaves the EU and are working to ensure you have the right to do so.

In the meantime, we will remain part of the EU until the Article 50 process is complete. You still have the right to live and work in the UK. The announcement today changes nothing in that regard.

The Government has stated no long-term deal on the rights of EU citizens who are resident in the UK at present would be possible until after Article 50 talks began. With negotiations now underway, we urge the Prime Minister to guarantee that EU citizens living and working in the UK will be able to stay and the rights they have at present will be respected. This should be confirmed as soon as possible.

To our European partners, we reiterate that UK universities will continue to be eligible for Horizon 2020 funding until the end of the Article 50 process. The UK Government has already guaranteed to underwrite the payments of awards won whilst the UK is still a member of the EU, even when specific projects continue after Brexit.

Russell Group universities and our partners across the EU have achieved an enormous amount together. Brexit will not mean an end to this international collaboration. Whether through framework programmes or other arrangements, collaboration will continue.

We will continue to work closely with our Government as the Article 50 process continues.

Professor Sir David Greenaway, Chair of the Russell Group and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Nottingham
Dr Tim Bradshaw, Acting Director of the Russell Group