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Academics say universities will ‘suffer’ from government’s migration measures

Professor Eerke Boiten and Dr Natercia Rodrigues Lopes say academia will ‘suffer badly’ under new migration plans (PA)
Professor Eerke Boiten and Dr Natercia Rodrigues Lopes say academia will ‘suffer badly’ under new migration plans (PA)

Foreign academics who have conducted research in the UK have said the country’s scientific community will be negatively impacted by the Government’s plan to curb legal migration as many experts will not meet its wage threshold.

A doctor and a professor of cyber security said academia will “suffer badly” under the plans and it would be “next to impossible” to find “good postdocs” if they can only be recruited from Britain.

The concerns come as Home Secretary James Cleverly announced a five-point plan on Monday to slash rising net migration, which would increase the skilled worker earnings threshold to £38,700 for a “household as a whole”.

Home Secretary James Cleverly announced the new measures this week (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Professor Eerke Boiten, 57, told the PA news agency he believes UK academia will “suffer badly” from the changes and said he would not have been able to move to the UK from the Netherlands in the 1990s under the government’s new plan.

The professor of cyber security of the School of Computer Science and Informatics at De Montfort University in Leicester said he was on nearly double the salary in the Netherlands and took a “serious pay cut” to £16,000 to move to the UK.

Under the proposed changes, he said his move would have been impossible.

“UK academia will suffer badly because it’s already hard to recruit in my subject – computer science,” he said.

“The level at which we tend to appoint postdocs is indeed something like £32,000, which means that from now on, we won’t be able to appoint people needing visas, which is just about the whole world.

“It’s hard enough to find good postdocs on research grants but now if we can only recruit them from the UK, that will be extremely competitive, next to impossible.

“Either we need to massively increase the salaries that we offer postdocs or that’s going to completely dry up.”

Dr Natercia Rodrigues Lopes, 31, studied for several years in the UK after coming as an undergraduate – so she would not have been impacted by the plan, but believes many scientific researchers will be unable to obtain visas to work under the new measures.

“Most research scientists, especially early career scientists, are not earning that much,” the researcher in physical chemistry at Instituto Superior Tecnico in Lisbon told PA.

“It doesn’t affect me personally anymore because I’ve left the UK now but… imagine a Portuguese colleague of mine who would want to go to the UK to a position similar to where I was before.

“Unfortunately, it goes in line with what we have been seeing from the UK government, which is really disappointing (and) unwelcoming to migrants.

“They tried to paint it as ‘we just want the highest qualified people coming’, but that’s not true because this threshold that they’ve set excludes a lot of very highly qualified people from entering the country, and so what they are is racist, xenophobic measures.”

When contacted by PA for a response, the Home Office pointed to its Net Migration Press Notice outlining the Home Secretary’s proposals to bring the “biggest ever reduction” to migration levels.

Mr Cleverly said in the notice: “My plan will deliver the biggest ever reduction in net migration and will mean around 300,000 people who came to the UK last year would not have been able to do so.

“I am taking decisive action to halt the drastic rise in our work visa routes and crack down on those who seek to take advantage of our hospitality.”