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SFC’s Stuart Fancey on the active approach being taken to preserve the connections between Scottish colleges and universities and European partners.

Banner image for Safeguarding Scotland’s research ties with Europe

Last week I travelled to Brussels as part of a Scottish delegation led by Minister Richard Lochhead, to communicate to Scotland’s European partners the importance to our research community of close working relationships with European institutions and our intention to maintain those links in whatever ways are possible.

I was joined by Professor Sheila Rowan, Chief Scientific Adviser for Scotland, Alastair Sim, Director, Universities Scotland, Professor Wayne Powell, Principal and Chief Executive, Scotland’s Rural College and Associate Principal Professor Tim Bedford from the University of Strathclyde.

Safeguarding Scotland's research ties with EuropeOver the course of the day we met with a variety of representatives from EU countries, university associations such as CESAER, and other official bodies to discuss how Scotland can continue to engage and work with European institutions post-Brexit.

As a theme running through all of our conversations, Mr Lochhead relayed Scotland’s message that we are a welcoming and engaging nation. In particular, the Minister stressed our enthusiasm to maintain highly connected research efforts, as well as the exchange of students, who bring their own diversity to our college and university campuses.

Professors Tim Bedford and Wayne Powell were also able to speak more specifically of the impact of research collaborations between Scotland and universities from other European countries, using case studies to highlight the contribution Scottish universities are making to solve the shared challenges we face.

The reception we got from our European colleagues was universally warm and sympathetic. It was very clear from our meetings that the calibre of Scotland’s research is highly valued in Europe, and our colleagues there are just as keen as we are to overcome any obstacles that may lie ahead, in whatever ways the future relationship we have with European programmes and institutions allow.

The visit was also an opportunity to engage with Scottish Government and Scotland Europa, and consider our collective approach to these challenging times. From Scotland House in Brussels, they are taking a very active approach to help secure Scotland’s ability to contribute to future EU policy development and continue to benefit from current funding programmes such as Horizon 2020.

In summary, our message was simple. Scotland is an enthusiastic partner in research, teaching and the exchange of people across Europe and our intention is to keep it that way – no matter the outcome of Brexit.