European Experts' Key Role in Post-Brexit HE; European Specialists Working at Universities Will Be Important for the Welsh Economy and Higher Education Research in the Post-Brexit Era, Says Leila Gouran, European Projects Director (Enterprise) at Cardiff Metropolitan University

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), September 14, 2017 | Go to article overview

European Experts' Key Role in Post-Brexit HE; European Specialists Working at Universities Will Be Important for the Welsh Economy and Higher Education Research in the Post-Brexit Era, Says Leila Gouran, European Projects Director (Enterprise) at Cardiff Metropolitan University


Ever since the EU referendum result the higher education sector has followed developments very closely, keenly aware that a multitude of decisions, some seemingly unrelated, could have big ramifications for our sector.

University European specialists, whose jobs are focused on participation in European initiatives, watch even more closely while maintaining a "business as usual" approach.

Our expertise has led to projects within Wales that enable businesses to undertake collaborative research projects with Welsh universities; individuals to undertake doctoral learning; and Welsh small and medium-sized enterprises to create new products and processes.

These skills can be utilised to secure and deliver investment to the benefit of our institutions and the local community.

Most institutions have a couple of European specialists and we are a dedicated bunch. One day we find ourselves supporting individual academics to enhance their careers and further their research through grant capture; the next we are supporting whole organisations to deliver their research and innovation strategies through high-level planning and negotiations.

Our support and direction ensures billions of euros flow into our organisations and the local economy, creating skills, jobs and facilitating world-leading research. We travel around the UK, Brussels and beyond as we grapple with hundreds of complex funding schemes and subschemes trying to ensure that we have the right information for the right people at the right time.

We experience the highs of winning grants and delivering transformative projects through to completion, as well as the lows of losing out on the chance to start despite our best efforts.

We are committed to the EU, connected professionally to our European counterparts and to Brussels, and personally through our own experiences.

Certainly, the vote to leave the EU and the resultant uncertainty has been a personal and professional low for us all.

Arguably, our job is more important now than ever as we try to maximise funding and research collaborations before leaving the EU, but since June 23 there have been additional elements to our role. We now need to understand the Brexit negotiations and policy positions affecting our sector, often communicating these to a wide audience.

We need to reassure concerned academics of our place in European research and innovation schemes while modelling possible exit scenarios to help inform our senior managers.

Most importantly, we need to start thinking outside of the box. It's this out-of-the-box thinking that will be our saviour both as individuals in a professional dilemma and as organisations already faced with a multitude of challenges.

There are a number of opportunities for our sector to which European specialists can add value. Some of us have already started to utilise our transferable skill set to do just that. …

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