Fresh concern over immigration restrictions

 

CaSE has organised a letter (£, or see below), published in today’s Times, which warns that Government proposals to drastically limit the settlement rights of migrants coming into the UK could seriously damage the country’s science and engineering base.

It comes a year after CaSE organised a first letter to the Times, signed by eight Nobel laureates, protesting against the government’s initial proposals for an immigration cap. For more details about CaSE’s work on this issue see here.

The new letter is signed by twenty individuals from across the science and engineering sector, ranging from industry to higher education, and includes two former Presidents of the Royal Society and the current Director of the country’s biggest research charity, the Wellcome Trust.

Fresh warnings

The letter was accompanied by an article in which The Times quotes CaSE Director Imran Khan as saying:

“When the immigration cap was imposed we had to fight pretty hard to warn the Government of the damage that it could do to science and engineering. To its credit, it eventually listened and changed its plans, but its settlement proposals could be just as harmful. The Government is effectively saying to the world’s top scientists, ‘Well, you can come and work here — but we’ll be kicking you out after five years’.”

“That’s not nearly enough for the kind of long-term research that the UK has built its reputation on, and it will mean that we are not even considered as a venue by the world’s best talent.”

A copy of the letter has been sent to the Home Secretary Theresa May, and the Minister for Immigration Damian Green, clarifying the points raised.

Full text and list of signatories

Sir,

A year ago this page carried a letter from eight Nobel prize-winning researchers, explaining how curbs on immigration could damage the UK’s science and engineering excellence. The Government listened at the time, but now appears to have forgotten the warning.

The Government is proposing to end the right of migrants to settle in the UK, effectively forcing the vast majority to leave the country after five years. This policy would be a profound mistake, jeopardising our position as a hub for the world’s finest scientists and engineers.

A recent report for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills noted that the UK provides the best ‘bang for buck’ of any G8 nation when it comes to research, while the economic and social benefits are immense and visible everywhere.

This eminence relies on a global outlook. Nearly half of all UK researchers collaborate with overseas colleagues, while migrant scientists such as Andre Geim, Konstantin Novoselov, and Venki Ramakrishnan have all won Nobel Prizes whilst working in British labs.

When the best international researchers decide where to work they will consider the prospects for their careers and families. If they cannot be confident of a stay longer than five years – barely long enough to supervise a PhD, let alone a major research programme – then we will be ruled out as a destination.

Let us be clear; the UK needs these people more than they need us. Moreover, if we are trying to improve links with nations such as China and India, the worst possible way to start is by turning their best minds away from our doorstep. The Government must decide how much it values our scientific prosperity.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Stephen Bold FREng Managing Director, Sharp Laboratories of Europe Ltd.
David Brown Chief Executive, Institution of Chemical Engineers
Mark Downs Chief Executive, Society of Biology
Nigel Gaymond Chief Executive, Bioindustry Association
Professor Ray Hill President, British Pharmacological Society
Professor Sophien Kamoun Head of the Sainsbury Laboratory
Professor Colin Kleanthous Chair, the Biochemical Society
Imran Khan Director, Campaign for Science and Engineering
Sir Peter Knight FRS President, Institute of Physics
Lord May of Oxford OM AC FRS Former President of the Royal Society, former Government Chief Scientific Adviser
David Phillips OBE President, Royal Society of Chemistry
Professor Baron Piot Director, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
Professor David Price Vice Provost (Research), UCL
Lord Rees of Ludlow OM FRS Former President of the Royal Society
Dr Mike Short President, the Institution of Engineering and Technology
Professor Mike Spyer President, the Physiological Society
Mark Stewart Human Resources Director, Airbus UK
Professor Eric Thomas President, Universities UK
Sir Mark Walport Director, Wellcome Trust
Stephen Whitehead Chief Executive, Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry
Lord Willis of Knaresborough Chair, Association of Medical Research Charities
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2 Trackbacks

  • [...] The concept of globalisation, at least, is intimately tied to economics. Though nationalism may be undesirable for a variety of reasons, it’s strongly historically linked to economic turmoil, and can be seen already in the stricter immigration rules that threaten to keep scientists from coming to the UK. [...]

  • [...] Most of the callers to the show, however, tended to be of the opposite opinion and Stephen Clarke, the author of the report, was forced onto the back foot. We heard about the positives of having UK-trained scientists abroad, with examples such as the building of international collaborative networks and the spreading of British ‘soft power’ given as ways in which our economy benefits. The expertise of ‘UK PLC’ may also be enhanced, as our international graduates are subsequently brought back again by employers, with us benefitting from a global brain cycling. Our graduates also act as advocates for UK education, and indeed it seemed on the programme that non-EU students were queuing up to heap praise on our university courses. On the other hand, they expressed frustration with our restrictive visa policies, and many other comments to this effect were posted on the Radio 4 Facebook page. This is currently a major concern in the scientific community. [...]

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