Trinity is warning that Brexit threatens to undermine collaborative research between institutions in Ireland and the UK in an open letter in today’s Financial Times.
The letter outlines that Trinity is already seeing a shift in demographics as applications from Northern Irish students fall and applications from UK-based academics rise.
This year, Trinity saw a 20 per cent decrease in applications from Northern Ireland compared to 2017. College explains that in the 1950s and 60s students from Belfast outnumbered those from Dublin. This declined in the 1990s, although recent years saw a renewed increase in applications from Northern Ireland prior to Brexit.
Meanwhile, academics based in the UK increasingly seek employment at Trinity with an aim of moving to Ireland. The letter outlines that many of the applicants are “outstanding” but that College would “prefer to keep collaborating with them through existing programmes”.
“We believe many researchers in Ireland, the UK and the EU feel the same,” the letter continued. College noted that almost 1,000 collaborations currently exist between Irish and UK researchers under the EU Horizon 2020 programme, Ireland’s highest number of international links.
The open letter, which was published as a free quarter-page ad that came from a partnership with the Financial Times in a public discussion on borders, stated: “Many UK universities are the best in Europe, and it’s not wishful thinking to expect the EU to do everything to maintain our research links, but this won’t be easy if the UK leaves under WTO rules.”
College quotes graduate Edmund Burke to warn of Brexit’s potential impact: “Rage and frenzy will pull down more in half an hour than prudence, deliberation, and foresight can build up in a hundred years.”
According to the Higher Education Authority, only 568 Northern Irish students attended universities in Ireland during the 2016/2017 academic year. In comparison, nearly 17,000 Northern Irish students were at university in England, Scotland, or Wales during the same year.