EU Referendum: Reassurance sought over EU students
Universities have pledged to pressure ministers to ensure European staff and students can still work and study in the UK after the vote to leave the EU.
Vice-chancellors from the Universities UK umbrella group say the decision to leave will create "significant challenges" for higher education.
They are already in talks with EU commissioners, it is understood.
The Russell Group of top research universities says it will work with ministers to safeguard research funds.
These leading institutions get £500m a year in EU investment.
In the run-up to the referendum, Leave campaigners said they would protect the money universities receive through the European Union. But they were unable to explain exactly how this would happen.
There are currently 125,000 EU students here, entitled to similar loans to those offered to UK-based students.
And one of the most urgent questions universities are asking is whether tuition fee loans for EU students starting courses in 2016-17 will be honoured.
There are also scores of research schemes and collaborative projects between the UK and European universities, which vice-chancellors are seeking reassurance on.
'Best in the world'
A recent study for UUK suggested EU students at UK universities generated £3.7bn for the UK economy and supported more than 34,000 jobs in the UK.
President Julia Goodfellow said: "Leaving the EU will create significant challenges for universities.
"We should remember that leaving the EU will not happen overnight. There will be a gradual exit process with significant opportunities to seek assurances and influence future policy.
"Throughout the transition period, our focus will be on securing support that allows our universities to continue to be global in their outlook, internationally networked and an attractive destination for talented people from across Europe.
"These features are central to ensuring that British universities continue to be the best in the world."
The organisation said its priority would be to push ministers to takes steps to ensure that staff and students from EU countries could continue to work and study at UK universities.
"They make a powerful contribution to university research and teaching and have a positive impact on the British economy and society. We will also prioritise securing opportunities for our researchers and students to access vital pan-European programmes and build new global networks," she said.
Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group, said: "The UK has not yet left the EU so it is important that our staff and students from other member countries understand that there will be no immediate impact on their status at our universities.
"However, we will be seeking assurances from the government that staff and students currently working and studying at our universities can continue to do so after the UK negotiates leaving the EU.
"We will be working closely with the government to secure the best deal for universities from the negotiations to come so that we can continue to form productive collaborations across Europe."