Russell Group universities and the European Union

UK membership of the European Union enhances world-class research and teaching at Russell Group universities.

Read our new publication about Russell Group universities and the EU.

Read the views of our universities' leaders on the EU.

The UK should remain at the heart of a modernised, competitive and outward-looking European Union to drive world-class research and innovation at our leading universities.

Research and innovation are global pursuits and are most effective when ideas and people are mobile across borders. The free movement of talent, the networks, collaborations, critical mass of research activity and funding that we gain from EU membership contributes to the competitiveness of our leading universities and the UK economy as a whole.

Our success as a knowledge economy hinges on our ability to collaborate with the best minds in Europe. The scientific landscape has grown ever more international and many of the challenges that face us today are global, from tackling climate change to fighting cancer and developing new energy sources. There is growing recognition that these require a real critical mass of excellent research and diverse minds working to solve them. It is no surprise that research carried out in collaboration with international partners has 50% more impact than that carried out by a single country. 

The EU is not perfect and we support reforms which enhance our universities’ ability to benefit further from forging productive collaborations across Europe. But leaving would mean we lose our seat at the table and our influence over EU-wide programmes and funding which enhance world-class collaborative research.

EU-level collaboration is critical for world-class research

  • As members of the EU, we are part of a wider network with a critical mass of excellent researchers working together, making us even more globally competitive.
  • EU-level collaboration is making a significant impact on our most complex global challenges – transforming the future of industry with novel uses of graphene; tackling the effects of climate change; and providing access to health data sets to find new approaches in the fight against cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and HIV.
  • Through the EU, our researchers work on large-scale, complex projects and access cutting-edge facilities and infrastructure that would not be possible at a national level because of scale or costs.

Access to EU investment in research and innovation which cannot easily be replaced

  • Russell Group universities received over half a billion pounds a year in EU investment in 2014/15. This is equivalent to almost the entire budget of the Medical Research Council.
  • The UK leads Europe in the quality of our research and drives excellence across the continent. Our researchers have won many more awards from the European Research Council (ERC) than our nearest competitor – the UK wins 22% of ERC grants (with the Russell Group winning 17% of the total on its own), compared to Germany’s 14%.
  • There is no guarantee that if the EU source of investment was removed, that it could be replaced with funding from national budgets and sustained long term.

Freedom of movement helps us attract the best and brightest staff and students

  • EU students studying at UK universities contribute £3.7 billion each year to our economy and support around 34,000 jobs.
  • The brightest students from across the EU are attracted to our leading universities, enhancing diversity on campus and forging positive, long-lasting diplomatic and trade links with our European neighbours in the future.
  • Freedom of movement makes it easier for the best researchers to bring their specialist skills and expertise to the UK. One fifth of Russell Group academics are from other EU countries and bring diverse approaches to tackle complex global challenges.


Media Enquiries
Policy Enquiries
  • Stephanie Smith

    020 3816 1310