Welsh Universities on the Brink: Over 1,000 Jobs at Risk as EU Structural Funds Withdrawn

Welsh universities are facing a devastating blow with the impending loss of over 1,000 skilled jobs due to the withdrawal of EU structural funds. Despite promises from ministers to replace the lost support, leaders claim that the replacement finance will not match what has been lost. Since 2014, Welsh universities have received approximately £370 million in research projects from EU structural funds, but 60 ongoing projects will come to an abrupt end this year as a result of the UK’s withdrawal.

Prof Paul Boyle, Vice-Chancellor of Swansea University and Chair of the Universities Wales research and innovation network, passionately appealed to MPs, urging them to provide an urgent injection of £71 million in bridging finance to save the projects and jobs. He warned that stepping away from the cliff edge could have dire consequences for the country, including the loss of hundreds of jobs, cutting-edge innovation projects that drive economic growth, and direct investment in areas that the UK government has deemed critical for its own levelling up ambitions.

One shining example of the importance of EU structural funds is Swansea University’s Specific project, which aims to create buildings that store and release heat and electricity from solar energy. This project, funded through the European structural and investment fund, has already created seven spin-off companies and works with hundreds of private sector partners. The sudden loss of such projects could be a major blow to the UK’s ambition of sustainable economic growth, according to Geraint Davies, Labour MP for Swansea West.

Cardiff University also spoke out, stating that 12 of its projects are set to end this year, with a further five already in the process of closing after funding ran out last year, putting approximately 100 jobs at risk. Cardiff University’s Vice-Chancellor, Colin Riordan, emphasized the significance of these projects, which were created to stimulate economic activity through innovation. He stressed that the loss of these projects would not only impact the university, but also the entire region.

The payments from the structural fund will come to a close this year, and the Westminster government has promised to cover the funding through its £2.6 billion UK shared prosperity fund. However, delays and uncertainty over distribution have left the current projects in peril, with the possibility of forced closure before funding is allocated. The need for immediate bridging funding of £71 million has never been more pressing.

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