In response to the growing threat of a restricting immigration cap, Pro-Vice Chancellor Professor Chris Marlin of the University of Sussex, the CBI, the Royal Society and many university vice-chancellors have been opposing David Cameron, arguing that it could ultimately choke the UK’s scientific talent and industry.
In a letter to The Times, eight Nobel Prize winners warned of the UK’s threat of isolation, arguing that the “UK would also undermine the global free exchange of scientific ideas.”
Professor Konstantin Novoselov and Professor Andre Giem of the University of Manchester argue that this exchange is “absolutely crucial for our work and for scientific work in general.”
In the past, collaborations between scientists have helped make historical findings such as DNA, which was a joint venture between Britain, America and New Zealand.
Currently, the government holds a temporary cap of 24,100 migrants from non-EU countries until April 2011 when a permanent limit will be imposed.
Many academics fear for the UK’s scientific standing in the world, as 40 percent of the UK’s scientific output is through international collaboration, and the UK as a whole contributes to 10 percent of scientific development compared to its 10 percent population: “We punch above our weight because we can engage with excellence wherever it occurs […] British Science depends on it.”
However, Immigration Minister Damien Green insists that it will “retain the brightest and the best people who can make a real difference to our economic growth.”
He continued to argue that what Britain needs is migration, but not uncontrolled migration that could place unacceptable pressure on public services.
The UK Border Agency predicts that the cap will mean a 15 percent reduction from Tier 2 (“skilled workers”). However, universities such as Newcastle have reported a 50 percent reduction of their allowance.
Veryan Johnston, the Executive Director of Human Resources at the University of Newcastle, argued that they “could lose a key researcher at any time” due to the cap affecting professionals renewing their visas.
Professor Chris Marlin also argued that the Sussex Centre for Migration Research has been affected: “All its staff are international […]In an international world, it is difficult to study these things without a flow of staff.”
He added: “We have had more than 20 years of research assessment with the aim of building up the performance of the UK and making it internationally competitive, which then attracts the best people from overseas.
“Now we have immigration rules putting universities in a situation that may choke this off.” Professionals are now being advised to apply for a visa under the Tier 1 ‘highly skilled’ category.
Ultimately, Professor Marlin argues that the cap will “change the way UK universities will operate”.
Professor Marlin joined the univeristy last year with the aim of developing the institution’s international agenda.