Leaving EU would harm status of British universities: Lobby group

British Prime Minister David Cameron leaves the European Council headquarters after the first day of a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium, June 26, 2015.
British Prime Minister David Cameron leaves the European Council headquarters after the first day of a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium, June 26, 2015.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS) - Britain must remain a member of the European Union if its higher education sector is to maintain its status, quality and research capabilities, a university lobby group said on Monday (July 27).

Prime Minister David Cameron is planning to renegotiate Britain's ties to the EU and then, by the end of 2017, hold a referendum on whether the country should stay in the bloc.

"Brexit" would harm international academic collaboration, Julia Goodfellow, president-elect of Universities UK, is due to say later today at the launch of a university-led campaign attended by pro-EU lawmakers.

"The case for staying in Europe is about ensuring the future prosperity of the UK," she will say. "It's about maximising the chances of new discoveries that enhance the society in which we live, it's about the UK's standing in the world, it's about British jobs and it's about opportunities for British people now and in the future."

Those co-ordinating the wider campaign to keep Britain in the EU have underlined the importance of having a broad range of pro-European voices to avoid the perception that politicians and bankers are trying to bully voters into staying.

Finance minister George Osborne, Cameron's lead negotiator in the push for EU reform, is due to meet French ministers on Monday - the second day of a diplomatic mission designed to win support for changes to EU rules.

The Independent on Sunday reported that Britain would hold a referendum on EU membership within the next 12 months.