2017. RIA Press Release: Impacts and Opportunities for HE and Research post-Brexit

Royal Irish Academy Press Release: Impacts and Opportunities for HE and Research post-Brexit




  • Clear agreement on the importance of Irish-UK research collaboration


  • Free movement of students, academics and researchers considered essential
  • Leaving Cert students face possibility of paying increased fees to study in Northern Ireland




6th June 2017




The Royal Irish Academy has today (6th June) published results from a survey of 390 academics in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland on the Impacts and Opportunities for Higher Education and Research on the Island of Ireland post Brexit. Its results highlight significant concerns among the sector around the likely impact of Brexit on the ability of students and researchers to move freely for work and research on the island of Ireland and with the UK.


 66% of respondents believe Brexit will have a negative impact on the Higher Education Sector in Ireland. This increases to 96% when asked this question in relation to Northern Ireland.




Retention of the Common Travel Area between Ireland and the UK was frequently cited as a way of overcoming some of these impacts, allowing Irish students and researchers to continue to study and train in UK universities on the same condition as UK students and workers. Removal of these rights may mean for example, that Republic of Ireland students in Northern Ireland and Great Britain would pay significantly higher fees (up to 400% higher) as “international” students. Similar issues may arise for Northern Ireland students in the Republic.




 The shared land border between Ireland and Northern Ireland was recognised as a unique and important issue: respondents frequently drew attention to the importance of an open border to allow academic and research staff and students to travel freely.




Strong concern was expressed by survey respondents for future research collaborations north and south on the island of Ireland, and with the U.K. The UK is our closest collaborator for research and higher education and a significant partner in successful bids for European research and innovation funding.




 79% of respondents ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ that collaborations between U.K and Irish higher education institutions (HEIs) are very important in their academic/research field, highlighting the need to continue to facilitate such collaborations post-Brexit.




 77% of respondents either ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ with the statement ‘Brexit is likely to impact negatively on North- South collaboration in the medium to long-term’




In the event of a so-called “hard” Brexit, Northern Ireland researchers were particularly concerned about losing access to European Union research and innovation and structural funding.




 69% of respondents ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ when asked if Brexit would have a significant impact on Higher Education and research in the Republic of Ireland. This rose to 90% when asked this question in relation to Northern Ireland.




 Respondents in the Republic of Ireland identified the potential to win more EU funding, and attract international students and academics to Irish higher education institutions as key opportunities.




Professors Jane Ohlmeyer MRIA and Gerry McKenna, MRIA, Co-Chairs of the Royal Irish Academy Brexit Taskforce, commented, “It is clear that the U.K’s impending exit from the EU will have a huge impact on Higher Education and Research on both sides of the border. Our taskforce is seeking to present possible solutions and opportunities to Government for the myriad of challenges that Brexit will pose to the academic community. This survey is the first step in this process and it highlights the key areas of concern for the Higher Education and research sector.”


“The survey results deliver a strong message to the Irish and British Governments that Brexit negotiations must promote conditions that enable UK-Ireland collaborations, facilitate the continued mobility of staff and students, and seek to secure future UK participation in EU research and innovation programmes. The emphasis must be on creating a conducive environment for Higher Education and research to continue to thrive on a whole-island basis. Universities must be given every opportunity and assistance in their quest to improve their rankings as these are a key driver of FDI and competitiveness.”


“It must be recognised that Ireland’s excellent Higher Education and research sector has been an important factor in its economic success, North and South. The ability to attract FDI is a pillar of current economic policy and depends upon a readily available, talented workforce and access to world class research facilities and expertise. The future of our sector must be protected and prioritized during the negotiation process to ensure that Ireland’s excellent reputation for academia and research is preserved,” they concluded.




The survey report provides a full analysis of the survey findings and will be followed by a comprehensive report, including recommendations and a wider data analysis, in Autumn 2017.




For further details please contact:


RIA Policy Unit


01 609 0636






The Royal Irish Academy/Acadamh Ríoga na hÉireann champions research. We identify and recognise Ireland’s world class researchers. We support scholarship and promote awareness of how science and the humanities enrich our lives and benefit society. We believe that good research needs to be promoted, sustained and communicated. The Academy is run by a Council of its members. Membership is by election and considered the highest Academic honour in Ireland.


The survey was conducted by the Royal Irish Academy’s Brexit Taskforce, established to consider how the higher education sector can best address the implications of the UK’s exit from the EU and identify potential strategic priorities for Ireland’s Brexit negotiators. Survey respondents included Members of the Royal Irish Academy, academic, early career researchers and Vice Presidents of research across higher education institutions on the island of Ireland. The Irish Research Council, the agency that funds early career researchers and basic frontier research, facilitated the survey of early career researchers to ensure that their views formed part of the responses.





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