Home Secretary's immigration statement

23 November 2010

Commenting on the Home Secretary’s statement on immigration today, Dr Wendy Piatt, Director General of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities said:

“If we are to maintain our place in the premier league of global higher education, it is crucial that the UK continues to attract the very best academics and students  from around the world. There is a fierce global market for the best academic talent, and our track record in attracting international staff and students has made a very important contribution to the considerable success of UK higher education to date. 

“Changes which make the visa regime stricter can severely diminish the international attractiveness of a nation’s universities. It is crucial that the immigration system continues to support the efforts of our leading universities to attract talented people who have a legitimate interest in studying, teaching, or carrying out research here. The interim tier 2 cap had unfortunately restricted our ability to compete in the global market for academic talent.

“We are therefore pleased that the Government has rightly recognised the importance of leading scientists, academics and legitimate students in contributing to economic growth and we look forward to more detail on the new highly selective tier 1 route for exceptional scientists and others. We welcome the recognition of the value of Tier 2 and agree that this tier is to be restricted to graduate-level roles but it is important that qualifications like PhDs are given more recognition and a higher  weighting in the points system. It is also important that today’s proposals allow us to attract promising young academics at the start of their careers and our ability to nurture new talent. As eight British-based Nobel prize-winners recently warned, ‘The UK must not isolate itself from the increasingly globalised world of research - British science depends on it’.

“We welcome the Home Secretary’s plans to allow leading universities to continue to sponsor the best and the brightest students responsibly both at degree and other levels - a significant number of international students enter degree programmes from sub-degree courses or schools in the UK. There is a danger that  restrictions on post-study workers might weaken the UK’s ability to pull in the world’s most talented students who are also looking to begin their career with a period of work in the UK and who contribute so much to our economy, society and culture. We therefore look forward to contributing to the consultation on student visas to ensure that the new measures do not diminish the international attractiveness of our leading universities. Through their tuition fees and living expenditure, we estimate that international students at HE institutions in the UK bring investment of at least £5.4bn to our economy annually. International students make a vital contribution – both financially and academically – to the success of our universities. Higher education is a hugely successful export industry for the UK – and this success must be nurtured.”

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