Uni bosses are set to open an expensive new lobbying office in Belgium next month.
The space is to be used “to influence EU research policy,” but the investment could go down the drain if the UK votes to leave Europe in just 16 weeks time.
An event to mark the launch of the office, in April, will see Vice-Chancellor Koen Lamberts and three York professors jet off to Belgium for a two day event.
The bash will be held at a swanky Marriot Renaissance Hotel, where rooms start from £60 per night.
Second year politics student Will Barnes slammed the investment, calling it an “unnecessary and gross misuse of public funds and student tuition.”
Pointing out staffing shortages, he said the University “should prioritise the money on ways that will directly help those at the University and students rather than attempting to lobby the EU.”
The office is a project by the White Rose University Consortium, a joint venture between the universities of York, Sheffield and Leeds. They argue it is part of a “long term strategy.”
Craig Walker, the director of the consortium, claimed the building “puts the Universities of Leeds, Sheffield and York at the heart of Europe.”
Bosses are hiring new staff for the Brussels office, including a ‘European Public Affairs Director’.
Although the salary of this position is not listed online, the job is only for a “senior manager” with “influencing skills” who speaks English and French and is has good “knowledge of Brussels and the European Commission.”
The consortium’s website claims to have secured “£150 million” worth of research grants into the universities.
University registrar David Duncan defended the office opening. He said it was “vital that our researchers have access to up to date information on funding sources,” and “sharing a Brussels office with Leeds and Sheffield is a cost effective way to achieve this.”
Asked if the office would be left useless if Britain left the EU he said: “That would depend on whether the UK participated in EU-led research collaborations as a non-member. Countries like Switzerland do so at the moment, so I assume it’s possible.”
However, countries in the EU are statistically far more likely to be given funding for research than countries not in the Union.
Leading UK scientists fear universities would find it hard to bring in EU science funding if this country voted to leave.