UKIP Students responds to Universities UK
The primary goal of UKIP with regards to the referendum coverage at universities will be to ensure that there is a free, fair and open debate, in order that each student can access the wide range of opinions necessary to make their own, educated decision. Trying to ensure this, we are already swimming against the tide: the EU, through schemes such as Monnet professorships, actively funds the research and then creation of pro-EU propaganda at British universities. We feel it is vital that there is a neutral climate at universities in the run-up to the referendum, and institutions are not offered financial incentives to create and distribute impartial information to their students.
There is a strange orthodoxy among the academic that political union is a vital necessity to organise cooperation between universities. However, countries that already enjoy bilateral economic cooperation with Europe without being under political union – such as Norway and Iceland – also take part in academic cooperation, such as the Erasmus exchange programme, but are free to do so without sacrificing their right to self-governance.
The myth of “EU funding” has been talked about by UKIP on many occasions, and the same reasoning applies to universities: we pay more to the EU than they give us back. Leaving the EU would allow the UK to not only match, but hugely increase the amount given to universities – all without being forced to for the bill for European union to tell us why it is so important. It is for this very reason that the various bureaucracies of Brussels cannot be allowed to wield undue influence on British campuses, in the campaign period of this crucial referendum. We cannot allow British money to be laundered through the EU, and then spent on misleading students by presenting a biased representation of facts.
At this point, it is also important for us to outline why students would benefit from a positive vote to seek our future outside of the EU. After invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which enshrined in law our constitutional right to leave the EU, we can empower British universities to select the best students from across the world, regardless where they come from. Currently, non-EU students are disadvantaged when applying for a UK university place, as the government foolishly tries to limit the total number of foreign students by imposing draconian restrictions upon students from outside the EU, in order to mitigate the effect of having an open door to all students within the EU. This is not only a strategy doomed to fail, it is also encouraging universities to turn down the most able students from outside the EU, simply because it is more financially rewarding for them to select less able students with an EU passport. We should have a fairer, more positive system, which allows universities to choose students based on potential than their passport.
Far from UK universities benefiting from us being members of the EU, they are forced to narrow and propagandise their research, restrict their overseas access, and deprived of funds by the EU taxman. Leaving would allow us to engage with the wider world, but this relies on universities and student unions up and down the country listening not just to UKIP but to many other voices, saying that the debate must be open, free and fair. Whatever the outcome of the referendum, it can only legitimate if it is preceded by a campaign period in which every voter is furnished with the key arguments from each side, without unfair influence and interference from the increasing undemocratic European Union.
By Sarah Curtis – UKIP Students Chairman