EU exit 'a real tragedy' for future university students
A UK exit from the European Union would be "to the detriment" of Welsh universities, an expert has said.
Prof Colin Riordan, chairman of Universities Wales and vice chancellor of Cardiff University, said the EU offered "big advantages" for research.
He said the loss of access to schemes like Erasmus, which allows people to study abroad, would be "a real tragedy" for future students.
The prime minister has promised an in-out EU referendum by the end of 2017.
It is 40 years on Friday since the last UK vote on membership.
Pro Riordan told BBC Wales: "We wouldn't be able to shape the way research is done, we wouldn't be able to shape the priorities for science within the EU area and that would be to the detriment of universities."
Berwyn Davies, head of the Welsh Higher Education Brussels office, said universities would not have the say they have as full and active EU members, even if partnerships continued.
"There is a concern that if we did leave we might lose influence, particularly on the programmes that Wales benefits from at the moment," he said.
But UKIP's Wales MEP Nathan Gill, whose party is campaigning for the UK's withdrawal from the EU, said cooperation between universities would continue.
"An independent UK would simply negotiate with its European neighbours how best to maintain programmes that were mutually beneficial, in the same way that the UK does with the 160 plus countries that are not within the EU," he said.