Briefing: Academic Technology Approval Scheme

08 March 2023

International staff and students are a vital part of university communities, but our institutions understand overseas recruitment is not without risk.

The Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) is one of several safeguards in place to protect national security. It requires many international students and researchers intending to study or research almost any STEM subject to undergo enhanced scrutiny.

It is an important part of efforts to counter potential hostile activity and protect the UK national interest. Universities work closely behind the scenes with the Counter Proliferation and Arms Control Centre (CPACC) on this scheme and others to keep us safe.

However, severe ATAS delays have caused significant problems for individual students, research projects and universities. These problems risk undermining efforts to bring leading scientific talent to the UK and are an obstacle to our science superpower ambitions.

Delays have already led to businesses retracting funding, and PhD applicants and highly qualified researchers withdrawing from opportunities in the UK.

To help tackle backlogs and ensure robust ATAS checks are agile enough to support secure international recruitment, the Russell Group has set out a series of recommendations to help make the ATAS service more efficient. They include:

  • Overhauling communications to applicants to reduce confusion and cut numbers of unnecessary duplicate applications.
  • Working with the sector to enhance guidance and ensure consistency of advice to reduce errors leading to processing delays.
  • Working with the sector to improve the application form and make sure it is fully accessible for all staff and students.
  • Ensuring CPACC and the FCDO teams administering ATAS have the resources required to meet processing targets without compromising necessary scrutiny of individual applications.

Download and read our full briefing on ATAS below.


Briefing: Academic Technology Approval Scheme


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