Weekly news roundup: Universities UK warn against research funding cuts, and NZ halt visa applications

By Nicole Wootton-Cane• Last updated: Oct 31, 2023
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Brexit has been the main talking point in UK higher education this week, with HE leaders fearful that exiting the EU will lead to a breakdown in government research funding, and Wales announcing its own alternative to the EU’s Erasmus programme.

And in New Zealand, visa processing has been halted, leaving thousands of international students still studying from home. 

Here’s your weekly higher education news roundup.

Universities UK urge govt to reassess funding cuts

The president of Universities UK (UUK) has written a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, urging him to reconsider broad cuts for research and science funding. 

The cuts come as the UK leaves the European Union. Despite opting to remain in the EU’s Horizon research programme, it has been reported that funding for this will not be made available.

UUK’s concern is that if the government refuses to fund the project and the department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is forced to make the payments itself, this will equal an effective cut of £1bn to their usual budget. 

President of UUK Julia Buckingham said the move will “weaken the UK’s attractiveness as a destination for talented researchers and private and foreign investment”.

In other Brexit news, the Welsh government has announced £65m funding for its own replacement for the Erasmus programme, which the UK opted to leave as part of the Brexit agreement. 

The Welsh scheme, which will be known as the International Learning Exchange Programme, will run alongside the UK’s Turing scheme, and will allow staff and student opportunities that developers say are similar to the current Erasmus programme.

Education minister at the Senedd Cymru Kirsty Williams said: “Our students and staff are vital ambassadors for us overseas, promoting the message that Wales is an inviting destination for students and partners across the world, and their education and cultural awareness are improved in many ways as a result of spending time abroad – just as our education providers are enriched by students and staff visiting Wales to study and teach.”

The scheme will run from 2022 to 2026.

US VP praises study abroad impact

Vice President Kamala Harris has spoken positively about the impact that studying abroad can have on students’ lives. 

Speaking about an exchange programme that allows US students to study and research in Ireland, Harris praised the skills that studying abroad teaches young people.

“You will create friendships around the globe as an extension of the work we do as a country to inspire and to work on and to build on the friendships we have around the world,” she said. 

Harris herself is the daughter of two international students, and is part of an administration widely recognised for being supportive of foreign students. 

New Zealand halt visa processing

Immigration New Zealand have announced that no new visa applications will be processed until further notice, as the country tries to hang onto its grip on the coronavirus pandemic. 

The news will come as a blow to international students looking to study in New Zealand, as well as existing international students. 

Currently, the NZ government has agreed to allow entry to 250 PhD and postgraduate students, and 1,000 returning students on practical undergraduate and postgraduate courses. Only students nominated by their institutions and the ministry of education. 

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