As two Russian scientists win the Nobel Physics Prize for Britain, the government looks set to close foreign researchers out of British Universities.

Immigration cap threatens university research

Last month the Russian Physicists Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov won the Nobel Prize for Physics. As Geim and Novoselov were studying at Manchester University, this award constitutes yet another gain for British Science, and helps to keep the country competing at the top level in education and innovation worldwide. Yet at the same time, the Home Secretary is pushing forward with plans that could see thousands of top scientists locked out of Britain, unable to get a visa.

The Interim-Immigration Cap has already seen non-EU workers, including PHD students, limited to 24,100 and the Prime Minister is attempting to bring net immigration down “from hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands”. Yet although there have been allowances made for Premiership footballers, none has been made for students of science or technology.

Kingston University Science Faculty claims “We have a growing number of active international collaborations, and our expanding community of home and international research students contributes significantly to our success.” But now PhD researchers may choose other countries such as the US, which promise top level facilities but with less stringent immigration requirements.

In a letter to The Times, eight British or British-based Nobel Laureates called for an exception to the Government’s Interim Visa Cap. Whilst highlighting that 40 per cent of British scientific output comes from international cooperation, the letter draws attention to the exceptions made for international footballers, saying “It is a sad reflection of our priorities as a nation if we cannot afford the same recognition for elite scientists and engineers.”

Since then, Home Secretary Theresa May has announced a “new route within Tier 1 (the highly skilled tier for immigration) for people of exceptional talent -scientists, academics and artists who have achieved international recognition or are likely to do so.”

This channel is still shockingly limiting, with not only scientists but all “exceptionally talented” academics vying for the 1,000 places available each year. As it stands, many researchers will be unable to get in, and as we speak future Nobel Laureates may well be setting sail for more fruitful climes.

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