Brexit, Article 50 and the EU Referendum

Your stories: why collaboration with the EU is vital to our University

Our excellent teaching, life-changing research and professional services are only made possible because we are a community of international talent.

Following the EU Referendum in June 2016 and the UK’s vote to leave the EU, our President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Keith Burnett asked non-UK EU colleagues and others to share their experiences of collaboration with the EU. These stories demonstrate how being part of an international community enriches careers, enhances research and delivers more for our student experience.

Professor Marco Viceconti (Italy)

Marco is Director of the Insigneo Institute for in silico medicine and full Professor of Biomechanics in our Department of Mechanical Engineering.

“The European Framework Programme for Research has made it possible for scientists from 22 different countries to work together, and this has made an enormous difference to science.”

“There are dozens of diseases that manifest in each country with only 5–10 cases per year. If each country researched these diseases alone, they would never understand anything, they would never find a solution. But if we pull together, looking at all the patients in Europe, suddenly we start to have a critical mass.”

“We don’t have any chance if we compete alone. In many research areas, the UK is actually the leader in Europe. But if I don’t go to the Olympic Games, I will not win.”

“In 1990, I had the fortune of visiting one of the best engineering departments in Europe. Until six months before, that department was where the USSR was designing its space programme.

“It gave me a fantastic opportunity to see what isolation could produce in science. They had some of the brightest minds in material science and mechanical engineering. But they could not continuously exchange ideas, technologies, instruments and methods with the rest of the world. This impaired them dramatically.

“There’s a story here: science thrives when there is mobility and when there is communication. It dies when there is isolation. Every time a country puts up a barrier, their research system will suffer.”


I think even if the worst case scenario happens and we’re not in the European Research Framework, the UK government should create a collaboration framework, even if UK academics are funded by the UK and EU academics by the EU.

Professor Marco Viceconti (Italy)

Yvonne Scherphof (Netherlands)

Yvonne is the coordinator of an Early English Programme with children in Den Bosch in the Netherlands.

Yvonne (centre) is pictured with Sheffield Germanic Studies students.


“For three years Sheffield third year Germanic Studies students have come to the Netherlands to teach English in twelve primary schools in the Den Bosch area.

“They work alongside primary school teachers and students from Den Bosch, sharing their insights on education from a UK perspective with them.

"The fact that our primary school pupils are lucky enough to have Sheffield students teaching them English helps them open up to the world.

“Both teachers and students at first might try to find differences between their countries, but working so closely together in a different country, makes students realise their are more similarities than differences and it makes them understand and sometimes appreciate these differences."

Dr Chris Blackmore (UK)

Chris is the Academic Lead for Teaching Innovation and Deputy Head of the Mental Health Research Group in the School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR).

“I joined the University in 2002 specifically to work on a big European project to develop online training for psychotherapists. There were eight different countries involved. In Sheffield we developed the materials, then each country implemented them in their own way, to widen accessibility to the profession.

“We had partner meetings in each country. That was a fantastic experience and made me feel much more of a European citizen. Even though we’d only be there for one or two days, you still get a real flavour of the place and how life is lived there. That really opened my mind to a European dimension, as well as the opportunity to work with this network of EU Scholars who were all eminent in their fields.

“I worry about others who are at the stage I was at in 2002 not having the opportunity to join a European project the way I did. I’ve recently completed my PhD and it all stemmed from these three European projects, so my career path has really been determined by this work.”


Emeritus Professor Tony Crook (UK)

Tony crooke

Tony is an Emeritus Professor of Town and Regional Planning in Urban Studies and Planning. He is also one of the University’s Public Orators.

“I became an academic having been a professional first because I wanted to make a difference, so policy work has been important to me.

“Much of the research I’ve done has been on policy analysis, particularly on housing policy but also planning policy. One of the things that fascinates politicians in government is the idea that there might be a better solution elsewhere.

"The fact that throughout my research I’ve been able to work with colleagues in the European Network for Housing Research from all over Europe creates in the reader, the policy official who is reading it, a greater authenticity and they can have more confidence in it. Going to a country to research is not quite the same as working with a group of people together.

“My academic sense and my values are in Europe, both as a professional and as an academic to make a difference. Without this network I think this kind of work, of looking at other countries’ experiences and looking at what we can learn, would not have happened.”

Dr Sabine Little (Germany) and Dr Tim Herrick (UK)

Sabine and Tim

Sabine is Lecturer in Educational Studies in the School of Education. Tim is Director of Learning and Teaching and Senior University Teacher.

Tim: “Sabine is an EU citizen who has been in the UK for a very long time and done a lot of really good work for the University.

"She has led pioneering work in terms of student staff partnerships, and the student ambassador network she set up turned into the Student Ambassadors for Learning and Teaching that we have across the University now.”

Sabine: “I arrived in the UK as part of freedom of movement in terms of studying. I was toying with the idea of studying music or languages, and being able to study music in another language managed to tick both boxes.

"When I had a child, I spent a few years doing bits and pieces for the School of Education. I started to take up more part-time contracts and I came back full time in 2014. Having that flexibility and not having to justify every single decision is very much part of the European freedom.

"I’ve just been awarded an Erasmus bid to work with teachers in a number of European countries as part of the response to the refugee crisis that is happening, trying to work with teachers on the aspect of literacy in multicultural, multilingual, multinational classrooms.”

Dr Laura Ferraiuolo (Italy)


Laura is Lecturer in Translational Neurobiology in the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN).

“Having studied my undergraduate degree in Italy and my PhD at Sheffield, I started a postdoc on how neighbouring cells to neurones contribute to Motor Neurone Disease. In academia, it’s important to get around, so I decided after two years to move to the United States and applied for the prestigious Marie Curie fellowships for young researchers funded by the EU.

“I applied for a project that included two years abroad outside the EU, to learn a cutting-edge new technique and then in the third year bring back that skill and set it up in the European lab, which for me was here in Sheffield. I went to the Centre for Gene Therapy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. I carried out my project and learnt this new technique involving making human skin cells into neurones and supporting cells, which are the cells I was studying before.

“The EU funding had a huge impact on my career. I learned this new technique that allowed me then to come back and give the University something that wasn’t here, thus providing the Neuroscience department with unique skills and techniques. This also made a very strong case for my lectureship in neurobiology.

Engagement with the EU is crucial. It’s important in terms of the money it brings in to do good research, but it's also important because it creates good links with other laboratories, stimulates new research and gives the opportunities to discuss new ideas and techniques with other research centres, which keeps us with a very open mind. If we knew why a disease developed in a certain way, there would be no research, so ideas are everything for us.”

Tamara Francis (Germany)

TamaraTamara works in immigration support in the International Student Support team.

“I came to Britain in 2000 as an Erasmus student, so it was part of an international degree and that brought me to Sheffield, where I then met my now-husband, so that’s why I’m still here 16 years later.

“After I finished the Erasmus year, I had one more year to complete a 12-month placement. I took part in a programme which was funded by the EU regional development fund and designed to help small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in Yorkshire to innovate and expand towards new markets.

This created possibilities for small regional companies who wouldn't have been able to afford this otherwise. I worked for a small engineering company in Sheffield who were interested in looking into whether they could expand their business into Germany. As a German student I was able to contribute to their exploring of this possibility.

“Alongside International Student Support, I also used to work at the Modern Languages Teaching Centre as a German teacher. Most students I have come from science or engineering subjects and they find that German would help them to work in Germany, which is good for engineering careers in particular.

“It’s very important that these opportunities are retained. I think the University is an international campus, and to mix with people from all different nationalities is very important. Before I came to live in England, I’d only ever lived in Germany. So I’m a totally different person for having experienced two different cultures.”

Dr Andreas Rühmkorf (Germany) and Dr Etienne Dunant (France)

Andreas works in the School of Law. Etienne is Academic Services Officer.


Andreas: “I think law is always borrowed, one country from another. The Romans borrowed from the Ancient Greeks, then there was a lot of borrowing in Germany and France from Roman law. Learning from different systems is very important and that is only possible if you look at different legal systems and not just your own.

“In Europe we’ve always looked at Britain as being 20 years ahead in terms of internationalism. Britain gets a lot of ‘Brain In’ not 'Brain Drain, so I think that needs to be maintained for the future.”

Etienne: “Obviously it made a lot of difference to have someone to be able to translate and to be reassuring, because it can be completely overwhelming. It turned out well for the student and he managed to go back to France after that.

“We have students going abroad and also the European students coming here, who can trust us to help them. For example, I’ve helped French students who are in a panic, because when you panic your mother tongue is the one that comes first, and I was able to switch back to French to help them.”

Dr Rita Hordósy (Hungary) and Alison McKenzie (UK)

outreach team

Rita is a post-doctoral researcher in the Widening Participation Research and Evaluation Unit. Alison is Strategic Partnerships and Communications Manager for the Outreach and Widening Participation team.

Rita: “I did my first degree in Hungary, in Budapest. After University I worked as a research assistant in the Hungarian Institute of Educational Research and Development. Based on my work there, I became interested in the research area with which I decided to apply for a PhD in the UK in 2010.

“For my current research project on student experiences, I think it's really useful that I haven’t been an undergraduate here, because in the interviews conducted with students at Sheffield I might question things that others would potentially take for granted. Working in this research area I also find it interesting to compare policies on widening participation, given the differences in the thinking, level of funding, and efforts between here and Hungary.

Alison: “The history of education in this country reveals a struggle to gain universal education for ordinary people. So it’s really valuable to get different perspectives from abroad on our systems and history and how this compares with other countries.

"It’s also important to recognise that, as practitioners, we have more in common than we do apart. Myself and Rita have Birmingham in common, because she did her PhD there and it’s my hometown. There are lots of things that can potentially bring you together, particularly with specialist areas of research such as widening participation.”