UK work permit proposals could 'seriously damage' science

14 Nov 2011 | Posted by Carl Thomas

The government's proposals to limit the settlement rights of migrants with UK work permits could have a serious impact on the British science and engineering sectors.

This is the view expressed in a recent open letter from the Campaign for Science and Engineering in the UK (CASE) published in the Times.

A total of 20 individuals from the science and engineering sectors signed the letter, including two former presidents of the Royal Society and the current director of the Wellcome Trust – the largest research charity in the country.

David Phillips OBE, president of the Royal Society of Chemistry, Mark Down, chief executive of the Society of Biology and Imran Khan, director of CASE were also among the signatories.

The letter specifically addressed the proposed end to the right of migrants to settle in the UK. The group believe that doing so will “effectively force the vast majority [of migrants] to leave the country after five years”.

It added: “This policy would be a profound mistake, jeopardising our position as a hub for the world’s finest scientists and engineers.”

By implementing a situation in which UK work permit holders would be unable to guarantee their stay beyond five years, the government is reducing the likelihood of the best international researchers choosing to work in Britain, the group stated.

Such a time period is “barely long enough to supervise a PhD, let alone a major research programme”, the letter elaborated. On top of this it cited family and career prospects, for both of which a five year limit looks unfavourable.